Crosstown rivalry showdown: Hardaway defeats Columbus 21-7
September 11, 2013
By Nick Duke
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Sept. 11, 2013) -- The Hardaway Hawks improved to 2-0 Friday night, defeating Columbus 21-7 in the latest meeting between the two crosstown rivals.
Neither team was able to get into a steady rhythm on offense, with both defenses controlling the majority of the game. Neither team was able to total more than 200 yards of total offense.
Hardaway led just 7-0 at halftime, but used a 14-point third quarter to build a 21-0 lead that Columbus was unable to recover from.
"This one was a little rough," Hardaway head coach Jeff Battles said. "We didn't practice well all week, and we kept telling the team that this was a rivalry game and that Columbus was going to play hard. They're a good team, especially defensively. They fly to the ball, and they gave us fits all night long.
"Finally, we got in our jumbo package and we had some success doing that, so we just stayed in that the second half. We controlled the clock as best we could, and let our defense work. Our defense played extremely well and saved the game for us."
When the two teams met in 2012, the Hawks beat the Blue Devils 48-3. After this year's game, Columbus head coach Phil Marino said the scoreboard reflected how much his team has improved since the 2012 game.
"Last year, we got beat 48-3 and we were never really in the game," he said. "This is the best defense we've had in a long time. They're fast, they're athletic and they don't quit. If we can just find something to do offensively, we'll be ok. … I'm proud of these guys. We'd like to win, but like I said, last year it wasn't even a football game. We feel like we're improving. We've only got five seniors, and we'll have 19 of these guys back next year."
Hardaway took the opening kickoff and marched the ball to the Columbus 6-yard line, but was unable to convert on fourth-and-goal.
However, on the third play of Columbus' first drive, Hardaway's Justin Crawford intercepted a pass thrown by Columbus' Derrick James and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Hector Zamudio's extra point made it 7-0.
Early in the second quarter, James was sacked on a third-and-10 from the Columbus 39-yard line. He walked to the sideline slowly, and would not return to the game after being diagnosed with symptoms of a concussion.
"Our quarterback went down, and both of our top two quarterbacks have concussions now," Marino said. "Essang Bassey came into play, and he doesn't usually play quarterback. That was one outstanding job he did."
Neither team would score for the rest of the half, though both had opportunities.
Zamudio missed a 39-yard field goal later in the first quarter and the Blue Devils' Ryan Anderson missed attempts of 43 and 25 yards.
Columbus drove the ball to the Hardaway 40 to open the third quarter, but a Bassey pass was intercepted and returned to just inside Columbus territory.
Eight plays later, Crawford scored on an 8-yard run to put Hardaway up by two touchdowns.
On the ensuing drive, Columbus again drove into Hardaway territory before being stopped. A key special teams miscue followed, as the ball was snapped over the head of punter Ryan Aycock on fourth-and-15 from the Hardaway 48. Aycock covered the ball at the Columbus 33, giving the Hawks prime field position.
On the first play after the poor snap, Hardaway took advantage, as Blake Berry hit Crawford for a 33-yard touchdown pass to put Hardaway up by three scores.
Columbus would answer, however, as Ivan Rome returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and the Blue Devils' only score of the game.
Columbus had a chance to cut the Hardaway lead to one score, going on a 16-play drive that ate up 8:11, but the drive ended when the Hawks came up with a stop on fourth-and-11 from the Hardaway 14.
Battles said he was proud of the way his defense responded to being on the field for such a prolonged period of time.
"They never slowed down and they didn't take plays off," he said. "They showed the conditioning. The hard work they put in this summer showed up on those long drives because they were able to sustain themselves and not give up big plays."
Crawford led the way for Hardaway, carrying the ball 17 times for 114 yards and a touchdown to go along with his interception return and 33-yard touchdown reception.
"He's a good player, and he's supposed to do those things," Battles said. "That's his job, and he showed it tonight in all phases of the game."
For Columbus, Dale Williams had 88 yards rushing on 25 carries.
The Blue Devils fell to 0-2, and will now have a week off before playing Northside Sept. 20.
During that time, Marino said he hopes to have a better idea of the availability of his quarterbacks.
"I don't know what our quarterback situation is going to be," he said. "We'll definitely get Bailey ready, but the other kids are freshmen and they are not ready. We're just going to get ready for Northside. They're a big rival for us, and it'd give us a lot of momentum going into region play if we could beat them."
Hardaway, meanwhile returns to action Thursday against Shaw at Kinnett Stadium.
"Shaw is going to bring it," Battles said. "They're a good team, and they're going to play hard. We're going to have to get a whole lot better to be ready for them."