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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette New Haven's Zel Banks holds off Columbia City's Ethan Christen as he runs for a touchdown in the first quarter of Friday's Northeast Eight game at John Young Field in New Haven.

  • New Haven quarterback Tim Jordan rolls out of the pocket during Friday night’s game.

Saturday, September 23, 2017 1:00 am

New Haven 48 Columbia City 7

Bulldogs jump out early

Capitalize on Eagles' miscues; sit alone atop NE8

JOSH PATTERSON | For The Journal Gazette

NEW HAVEN – Columbia City and New Haven stood as the last of the Northeast Eight unbeatens entering Friday's game at John Young Field, the Eagles perhaps surprisingly.

The Bulldogs had no interest in letting the upstart Eagles pull off the upset, remaining perfect with a 48-7 victory on homecoming.

“We're in a conference race, and one loss can cost you the conference,” New Haven coach Jim Rowland said. “We came away last week not feeling very good about how we played against Norwell, and we challenged the kids to get out to a fast start.”

Challenge accepted.

The Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 NE8) seized control from the outset thanks to four first-quarter turnovers by Columbia City (4-2, 3-1). Compounding problems for the Eagles, an Anthony Lepera sack knocked starting quarterback Jacob Bolt out of the game in the first.

On the next play, backup Max Bedwell ran for a short gain to set up fourth down from the Bulldogs 40-yard line. Zel Banks returned the ensuing punt 98 yards for a touchdown – his second score of the quarter – to put New Haven solidly in front 27-0 inside the game's first 10 minutes.

“It's a good day,” Banks said. “I just came out and played aggressive for all game, all 48 minutes, and we set the tone in the first quarter.”

The nightmarish first quarter presented adversity not seen this season by Columbia City.

The team had committed just six turnovers entering Friday's game, but three interceptions and two lost fumbles – all in the first half – coupled with the loss of Bolt, who left the game on crutches with a heavily bandaged left ankle, yielded a snowball effect too large to overcome.

“I think we have to learn how to compete and we have to challenge our kids to rise up in those circumstances,” Columbia City coach Brett Fox said. “When those turnovers come in our own red zone and put our defense in that situation, or throwing a pick-six, all those things add up. It's not us putting points on the board, instead our offense was putting points on the board for New Haven.”

Davion Harris added a 20-yard interception return in the first quarter, while Stephen Owens picked up 59 of his game-high 122 rushing yards to put New Haven up 41-0 before halftime.

“It feels great, but it's just the beginning,” Owens said. “The key is to just keep pushing.”

While the Bulldogs remain perfect in the NE8, potential pitfalls remain on the schedule, most notably a Week 8 matchup at East Noble. There's still plenty at stake before that, Rowland said.

“We have to continue doing what we've been doing, which is improving from week to week,” Rowland said. “We can't afford to overlook Bellmont or Huntington North. East Noble's been a tough place for us to play, but we'll worry about that a week from now.”