By Aaron Korte
TOLEDO - First down?
In Jack Jacoby's mind, there's only one place the ball should be when he has it: The end zone.
When Columbian just needed to run out the final 3:25 in the game against Start on Friday night, Jacoby had other plans than running clock.
Instead of salting away the remaining 205 seconds of the game with some running plays to give the Tornadoes a 28-26 victory, he rushed it 65 yards over the course of four carries, the final a 9-yard plunge to give Columbian its final margin, 35-26.
"I'm fortunate that coach believes in my ability and I've been in this situation before. We just pounded it at them," Jacoby said. "(But) whenever I carry the ball, I want to get that touchdown."
Start coach Tyson Harder said lack of execution by his defense cost them the game.
"You can't spot a team 14 points," he said. "The first half was a debacle on offense and the defense was out there way too long. They couldn't get stops. Tiffin has a heck of a team and Jacoby is a heck of a runner. Everybody in the stands knew he was going to run the ball and we still couldn't stop it."
Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio said his club needed a challenge like this.
"We needed that. We really did. We haven't faced any adversity this whole year, honestly. We had subbed in every game. We hadn't played in four quarters yet," Colatruglio said. "We needed to face some adversity and have some things go bad for us and see how we reacted. ... We made a lot of mental mistakes and kind of came unglued a little bit. But I'm proud of the way we regrouped in the fourth."
Jacoby finished the night with 168 yards rushing on 26 carries and another 40 passing. His counterpart, Arthur Phillips turned out to be a load for the Tornadoes, throwing for 193 yards and rushing for another 53, all but four of which came in the second half.
"He's a tremendous kid and has a big heart," Harder said.
The senior was largely responsible for leading the Spartans back from an early third quarter 21-0 deficit.
He got Start on the board with a 43-yard touchdown pass to speedy Will Goodbar. A 3-yard run early in the fourth by Phillips on a fourth-and-goal play made it 21-14.
It took Columbian less than three minutes to respond, with the Tornadoes driving 55 yards in seven plays and Ryan Lynch punching it in from 5 yards out for the 28-14 lead with 8:12 to go.
It took Start one play to answer. It was Phillips finding Goodbar again on a crossing route and he burned untouched down the sideline. The extra point, however, was no good, leaving it 28-20.
Columbian couldn't reach midfield and had to punt and three plays later, Start was in the end zone again. This time Phillips split a pair of defenders on a heave to Nick Syroka for a 50-yard touchdown. Start was forced to go for two being down that margin. Phillips handed off to Matt Mangum on a reverse and found Columbian's Jordan Dye waiting for him at the 10, where the senior drove the Spartan to the ground, leaving the Tornadoes on top 28-26 with 3:25 to go.
"The field conditions is not an excuse but arm tackles kind of hurt us and a little bit of dissension among the group kind of hurt us," Jacoby said. "They exploited it and made some big plays. Those catches (in the second half) were impressive. The biggest factor though was just (our) response."
And respond they did. Jacoby started the ensuing drive with a 22-yard run. After a 1-yard Lynch carry, Jacoby scampered 33 yards to the Start 10. Two plays later, he was in the end zone.
When he scored, there was still 1:13 left in the game. But Phillips was the upback on the kickoff and after fielding the ball, was tackled and hurt on the play. He was later taken off the field on a stretcher. Harder said he was unsure of what Phillips injury was or what his prognosis was. Without their star signal caller, Start went backwards losing 23 yards on its series before turning it over on downs.
Colatruglio said his team had to contend with some serious speed.
"They had really fast guys and when (Phillips) had time to throw, they're really fast and we just got out-athleted a couple of times and they threw the ball over our heads," Colatruglio said.
Jacoby said the team needed a challenge.
"We needed this. It's the first time we've actually been challenged in the fourth quarter and I kept telling the guys this is what football is all about," Jacoby said. "We've been in this situation before and we regrouped and went back at them."
Columbian (5-0) owned the first two and a half quarters. It had a 14-0 halftime lead thanks to a 8-yard touchdown pass from Michael Rohrbach to Vince Amway and the first of Jacoby's three touchdowns on the night.
It stretched to 21-0 with a second Jacoby TD with 7:17 to go in the third.
Colatruglio said his team was guilty of looking ahead to next Friday's game against Bellevue.
"(Start was) 1-3 and I think we got caught peeking a little bit. We see their record and we know what's next week," Colatruglio said. "We get up 14-0 and we let off. And that's my fault and our guys have to be able to regroup and put teams away. We've done it all year and this is really the first time all year that we've let a team come back into a game. We needed it and I hope it's a lesson learned."