FREMONT — Patrick Henry had their way with Columbia in the Division V regional semifinals Saturday at Fremont Ross’ Don Paul Stadium.
The Patriots jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and plowed their way to a 56-15 win over the Raiders to advance to the regional finals to face Liberty-Benton, which was a 24-17 overtime winner over Lima Central Catholic.
Patrick Henry’s line play set the stage, as they gave Gabe Jones plenty of time to throw on offense, while the defensive line was in the quarterback’s face all night long.
“Our line play was exceptional tonight. We dominated both sides of the line. It’s easy to call plays when you dominate the line of scrimmage. The MVP of the game is the line on both sides of the ball. It was a great team effort,” Patrick Henry coach Bill Inselmann said.
“They just blew our doors off,” Columbia coach Jason Ward said. “We knew they were going to have a decided size advantage on us. Archbold was a big football team, but these guys were grown men out there and we couldn’t push them around. They pushed us all over the place. We didn’t have an answer for their size and strength.”
The Patriots got the ball on their own 20 to start the game and picked up three first downs in a row, a 25-yard pass from Jones to Derek Hoops, a 13-yard run by Jones and a 29-pass from Jones to Zach Nye to reach Columbia’s 13-yard line. On third-and-five, Jones ran in the final 8 yards for the early 7-0 lead.
Alex VandeBussche kicked off for the Patriots, but the ball didn’t travel too far, catching the Raiders off guard and they fumbled the pigskin and Patrick Henry’s Brandon Cole recovered the ball.
One play later, Jones found Josh Petersen for a 37-yard touchdown strike, and the Patriots led 13-0 just 2:29 into the contest.
Inselmann said the kick was not planned.
“I tell you how sophisticated our kick-off is ... we plan to kick it off. None of that was planned,” the PH coach said. “We just try to squib it as hard as we can to make it hard for them pick it up. We can’t kick it deep and it worked out for us. Turf makes a difference. That ball bounces around more.”
The Raiders were stopped on downs on their first offensive series, but the Patriots were forced to punt on fourth-and-four near midfield nearly three minutes later.
The punt was spotted at the Raiders’ 1-yard line, but despite starting deep in their own territory, the Raiders put together their best drive of the night.
On first down, Jay Banyasz completed a 59-yard pass to a wide open Jesse Lambert. He also completed a 10-yard pass and the Patriots were later called for roughing the passer to advance the ball to the Patriot 15-yard line. After an incomplete pass and a 3-yard loss, Banyasz found a receiver in the corner of the end zone to cut the lead to 13-7.
It didn’t take long for the Patriots to answer.
Jones and Hoops connected for a 24-yard gain, and Galen Powers raced down the sideline and nearly scored, but was just barely tripped up at the 2-yard line for a 56-yard run. After a 1-yard gain, Calvin Palmer ran in the final yard for the first of his three touchdowns.
Leading 19-7 heading into the second period, the Patriots put the game away in the second quarter.
PH got the ball just 17 seconds into the second period and 11 seconds later were up 27-7, as Jones pump faked and hit Nye down the sideline for a 78-yard touchdown strike.
On Columbia’s next possession, Jake Carrizales made a nice diving shoestring tackle for a 5-yard loss and the Raiders were forced to punt once again.
Palmer ran the ball four straight times, including an 8-yard touchdown run with 8:41 remaining in the half to lead 33-7.
The Patriots got the ball back with 5:46 to play. Starting on their own 28-yard line, Jones ran for 6 yards and completed a 25-yard pass to Petersen. After three straight runs, including a 15-yard gainer by Powers, Adam Prigge took the direct snap and raced 17 yards to paydirt. Palmer ran in the two-point conversion, and the rout was on.
But the Patriots weren’t finished, as they got the ball once last time with under two minutes remaining.
Palmer ran for 18 yards and then Jones spotted Hoops along the sideline again, and he scampered 55 yards for another score and a 49-7 halftime advantage.
Patrick Henry had 503 yards of total offense in just the first half. Jones was nearly perfect, as he was 8 of 9 passing in the first two periods for 279 yards. The one incomplete pass was dropped. Palmer did most of the damage on the ground. He had 90 yards on nine carries in the first half and finished with 138 yards on 18 carries.
“Our secondary didn’t have the greatest game in the world,” Ward said. “Not much you can do when they can run, too. We had to put our faith in our corners and our safeties like we have all year and they had a rough night.”
“We thought they were going to put a lot of guys up to stop the run. That was our prediction and we wanted to loosen things up with the passing game. That was one of our game plans coming in and our passing game was superb tonight. The receivers and Gabe played an awesome game,” Inselmann said. “I wonder how much of our offense took the juice out of them. He (Banyasz) was hard to tackle at times, but I thought for the most part we contained him well. We didn’t give up the big pass and we made him work for things. But when you get so far behind so quick if effects your play-calling and the kids are not as focused, so I think our offense took them out of a lot of things as well.
“That first quarter was huge. After we got that kick, we scored twice really fast and got some confidence after that,” Jones said after the game. “The line was doing great.
“Going into the game, we figured Columbia Station knew we got our butts kicked by Archbold so we were prepared to shock them. Maybe they weren’t ready for the game,” Jones concluded.
“I thought Gabe was phenomenal,” Inselmann said. “He touched those passes in exactly where he wanted them. The receivers made great catches and the line protected him. This was a tremendous team effort tonight and I hope we save some of it for next week.
“We got some good bounces, it was our night. That’s the most we’ve clicked all year. No doubt about it,” the PH coach added. “Archbold dominated us, and they beat Archbold, then we do this. You never know what’s going to happen.”
The Patriots play Liberty-Benton (11-1) Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lima Stadium.