By ZACH BIRDSONG
Tullahoma couldn’t quite cap off a perfect preseason, dropping its final scrimmage to Columbia Central 34-20 in front of home crowd during the school’s annual Fan Feast on Tuesday night.
Despite taking the loss, the Wildcats’ varsity team found itself in tight contest with the Lions, trailing 25-20, just a series into the second half, before the junior varsity played the remainder of the contest. Columbia put up nine unanswered points in the JV game to notch the win.
Offensively, the Wildcats varsity put up 245 yards, scoring three touchdowns on Tuesday. Quarterback Nic Barstad completed nine of his 10 pass attempts for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Amauri Burks added a rushing score and had 84 yards on eight carries.
However, the Lions were able to generate plenty of yardage against Tullahoma, totaling 288 yards, but had 294 in the first half alone. Columbia put up a 145 passing yards while adding 143 yards on the ground.
In fact, the Lions struck first for the first score of the game, putting together a nine-play 70-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Darien Davis connected with a receiver for a 17-yard score, putting Columbia in front 6-0 with 9:41 remaining in the first quarter. The point after the touchdown kick was blocked by Amauri Burks.
Tullahoma answered with a score, but was aided a bit by a Columbia penalty. On third-and-19, the Lions’ defense was called for holding. From there, it took the Wildcats seven plays to reach the end zone, taking a 7-6 edge. Barstad hit John Moore for a 15-yard touchdown and Chase Farler knocked in the PAT kick with 5:30 remaining in the opening period.
Moore followed that with a fumble recovery, giving Tullahoma possession at the Lions’ 27-yard line. The Wildcats’ drive stalled at the 12-yard line, setting up a 29-yard field goal attempt that was missed by Farler.
Six plays later, Columbia regained control of the contest, as Davis hit Dez Brooks for a 67-yard strike with 2 seconds left in the first quarter. This time, the PAT kick was good, giving the Lions a 13-7 lead.
After forcing Tullahoma to punt, Columbia marched down to the Wildcats’ 15-yard line. However, the drive stalled there and THS took over at that spot.
Three plays later, the Wildcats reached the end zone as Barstad hit Kobe Burks on a 66-yard strike down the right sideline, evening the contest with 6:48 remaining before halftime. Matt Marcel attempted the PAT kick, but it was blocked, leaving the score even at 13.
A long 37-yard pass play set up the Lions inside the red zone on their next series. Two plays later, Corey Fields found the end zone from 7 yards, making it a 19-13 ballgame with 4:23 left in the second quarter. Columbia missed the PAT kick.
Columbia added one final first-half score, finding the end zone with 25 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Fields capped off a 45-yard drive, punching the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out. Ty Cox blocked the PAT kick, as the Lions led 25-13 at the break.
On the first play from scrimmage, Tullahoma reached pay dirt as Amauri Burks broke a run to the right side of the field, before cutting back up the middle for the score. Farler knocked in the PAT kick, cutting it to a 25-20 contest with 11:48 left in the third quarter.
Columbia was held to a quick three-and-out on its first series, before the Wildcats’ junior varsity team took over the remainder of the contest.
At quarterback, Tullahoma’s Ben Fulton connected on six of his eight pass attempts for 63 yards. However, the Wildcats weren’t able to find the end zone as Columbia scored nine unanswered points, a touchdown and a safety, to secure the victory.
Prior to the varsity taking the field, the freshman teams received some playing time, with Columbia taking the 8-6 win. Taking a 6-0 lead, the Lions forced Tullahoma into a safety. On its final play of the contest, Tullahoma scored as quarterback Kyler Parker ran for a 6-yard touchdown.
Tullahoma will kick off the regular season with a trip to Shelbyville Central at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The game was originally slated to be played on Friday, however due to a shortage of area referees, that game was moved up to Thursday.