HAMLER — Game tape could have been Columbia’s worst enemy Saturday night.
Patrick Henry unveiled some new wrinkles, prepared well for what they saw were the Raiders’ strengths and came away with a 35-12 win in a Division V, Region 18 quarterfinal.
The first key to the win for the Patriots was stopping Columbia’s offensive attack.
“We thought and hoped that we could stop their run and passing formations by really padding the secondary — we were very concerned about their passing,” Patriots coach Bill Inselmann said. “I thought the biggest keys for us defensively were stopping their run play and getting heat on them while we had extra men in the secondary. You can’t do that unless you have a real good defensive line, and that’s our strength.”
The Patriots used solid defense to add another important ingredient they’ve been missing most of the season.
“We’ve only gotten 11 defensive turnovers in a 10-game span,” Inselmann said. “Usually your playoff teams with 9-1 or 10-0 records have good plus-minus turnovers … we are minus-five coming into this game.
“So we talked all week about our defense creating turnovers.”
The added intensity and pressure on Raiders quarterback John Banyasz worked to the tune of two fumbles. The Patriots weren’t able to capitalize on the turnovers, but the fumbles allowed them to keep the Raiders pinned deep in their territory and kept Columbia’s offense stalled.
“It kept us from getting in any kind of rhythm offensively,” Raiders coach Jason Ward said. “We haven’t had anyone take us out of our rhythm and take us out of the tempo we wanted to play all year. It was tough to get over that, and obviously at the end of the day we couldn’t.”
The Patriots finally unleashed their secret weapon on Columbia midway through the second quarter. Freshman tailback Tobey Hernandez, who had rushed 22 times for 63 yards and no touchdowns in the regular season, began slicing and dicing his way through the Raider defense.
Hernandez scored with 6:35 left in the second quarter to give Patrick Henry a 7-0 lead, then added two more touchdown runs in the third quarter to bury Columbia.
“He’s a freshman that started playing a little more during the latter half of the season,” said Inselmann. “We tried different combinations and he’s going to be a very good running back. I like him.”
The Raiders weren’t prepared for the 5-foot-10, 150-pound sensation – Hernandez finished with 67 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries – but the real backbreaker came when Patriots quarterback Kasey Spence scored his team’s second touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first half.
“That was huge,” Columbia’s senior cornerback Ryan Severo said. “I was trying to tell the guys that all we had to do was go down and score a touchdown right before half and get our momentum going, but they did it to us and it could have won the game for them.”
Even if the Raiders didn’t score to tie the game before halftime, just stopping Patrick Henry from scoring again would have provided a momentum boost.
“After all the mistakes we made in the first half, you go in down 7-0 and it’s almost a win,” Ward said. “But you give up that second one and that’s tough to overcome.”
Not that Ward and his coaching staff didn’t try to make their players believe it could be done.
“We went in and told the kids to get a stop, get a score, get a stop, get a score … and we’re right back in it,” Ward said. “But they really just overpowered us in the third quarter. The beginning of the third quarter was probably some of the most impressive football I’ve seen all year from Patrick Henry.”
After Hernandez scored his two third-quarter touchdowns, regular starting tailback Lucas Rosebrook scored to give the Patriots a 35-0 lead.
“In the third quarter, I thought our offensive line simply took over,” Inselmann said. “We were just driving them off the ball, backs were running hard and I thought our offensive line was the difference in that second half.”
But the Raiders didn’t stop fighting and they didn’t get shut out.
Severo finally provided them with some postseason joy by hauling in Banyasz’s 11-yard pass in the end zone. The Raiders struck again early in the fourth quarter when Banyasz scored from 2 yards out.
“There’s no quit in our guys,” Ward said. “I think they realized that they wanted to come out and have some fun there. We threw it around and had some fun and that’s what this group has been all about.
“It’s going to hurt those guys and our staff for a little while here, but when we have time to reflect, we’ll see that we accomplished some great things this year. Our goal was to go from good to great, and we were a great football team this year.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.