NEW HAVEN – Oratory took it on the mandibles Friday night, behind the closed doors of the New Haven locker room. Who needed Rockne when the mandate for the evening was simply Rock ’Em?
We were pretty frustrated at halftime, New Haven coach Jim Rowland said after his undefeated Bulldogs scored on their first two possessions, wandered off course for a bit and then went back to the smash-mouth elementals to filet Columbia City 29-6.
We weren’t establishing ourselves on the ground. We were a little too dependent on the pass, got carried away with some things and really kind of lost the fundamentals.
The most fundamental of which was: Just line up, hit somebody and ram the football right down their throats.
We really tried to coax them at halftime to get back to the fundamentals, (focus on) the point of attack and driving your guy off the ball and letting our running backs do what they do, Rowland.
Asked and answered. Leading 14-6 – the Bulldogs drove 80 yards in 11 plays on their opening drive and 77 yards in 12 plays on their second, then gave up a touchdown on Wayne Smith’s 78-yard interception return – they got right down to work in the second half.
Columbia City kicked off, and the Bulldogs proceeded to barrel 56 yards in 14 plays, all on the ground, all on the back of either Hayden Graham or D’Andre Smith. Finally Smith, who finished with 79 yards on 20 carries, plunged the last 2 yards.
Just like that, 6:22 had vanished from the clock, and a 14-6 lead that didn’t look big enough was a 21-6 chasm that yawned like the Grand Canyon. And on their next drive, the Bulldogs put it away with another display of ground-and-pound, grinding 62 yards in nine plays before Travis Crowe caught a deflected Vance Shearer pass in the end zone for the score.
It was one of only five passes the Bulldogs attempted in the second half, after Shearer threw 22 in the first half. And, after Jordan Hogue completed a two-point conversion pass to Trey Jackson, it was 29-6 with 11:44 to play.
That essentially ended things against a Columbia City team that started a third-string freshman at quarterback (Brock Snouffer) and a third-string sophomore at running back (Carson Reed). The Eagles managed two first downs, 40 yards, and ran just 15 plays in the second half.
You know, after the interception, we had our heads down, but our leaders picked us back up and we refocused and got the job done, said Hogue, who, besides catching a touchdown pass and completing the conversion pass, was named homecoming king at halftime, a trifecta not often seen.
We went back to our smash-mouth football and running the ball up the gut. Our coaches saw something we knew we could exploit, and we did.