For all the things that Columbian has done in coach Brian Colatruglio's three seasons as coach, there is one thing that has yet to happen.
"Three years of varsity football, (the players) have never left this field a loser," Colatruglio said. "They've won every single game on their homefield."
Columbian stayed perfect at Frost-Kalnow Stadium, downing Mansfield Senior 28-16 in the Division II Region 6 playoff opener.
It wasn't easy, but the running of Jack Jacoby (149 rushing yards, 2 TDs) and Ryan Lynch (90 rushing yards, TD) behind excellent blocking kept the Tygers' explosive offense off the field, and set up the 11-0 Tornadoes against Avon next Friday in a rematch of last year's regional final.
"Definitely, with a dangerous team, you subconsciously want to keep the ball out of their hands," Jacoby said. "We were able to do that. We really didn't have that big play tonight, and we were able to sustain some pretty long drives."
That was an understatement.
The Tornadoes' first two drives went for 14 and 15 plays, respectively. Each resulted in touchdowns, and burned a combined 13:24 off the game clock. The two scoring drives, sandwiched around a Hutch Blackstone field goal for the Tygers, gave the Tornadoes a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.
But Mansfield senior responded. After Jack Jacoby's 1-yard touchdown sneak, the Tygers answered on their next offensive play from scrimmage, a 54-yard scoring strike from Jalen Reese to Chris Diaz in the second quarter.
TC went to the break up 14-10.
But the Tornadoes got the second half kickoff, and went right back to controlling things. This time, a 14-play drive was capped on a fourth-down play. With the ball at the Tyger 6, quarterback Mike Rohrbach fired a slant to Vince Anway, who was wide open. Columbian took a 21-10 lead, and half of the third quarter was already gone.
"I heard the call, and I knew we were going to make it," said Anway, who had three catches for 17 yards.
TC appeared to put the game away in the fourth quarter, when Jacoby scored on a 5-yard rush. Columbian was up 28-10, and with about seven minutes left, the game appeared to be locked up.
But for the second time in two seasons, the Tygers were able to rally and, for a moment, put a scare into TC.
They made it 28-16 when Reese again found Diaz, this time from 10 yards out, to make it 28-16 with 4:19 left.
Then, the Tygers recovered an onside kick, and started driving again. With the ball on the Columbian 39, Reese threw over the middle to an open Keon Johnson, who stretched his hands out to make a brilliant catch, then ran into the end zone, with more than three minutes to play.
But there was a flag.
A chop block was called on Mansfield Senior, and the touchdown was wiped out. Not only that, but the penalty moved the Tiger 15 yards from the spot of the foul, which pushed them into a first-and-30 situation.
"It was a horrible call," Mansfield Senior coach Chioke Bradley said. "The one thing that's disheartening for me is for the kids, ... the kids are laying it all on the line out here.
Two plays later, Reese was intercepted by Columbian's Jordan Dye. Mansfield (8-2) got the ball back, but again turned it over, fumbling the ball inside the TC 20. Anway recovered, and TC ran out the clock.
"We did a good job to get some key turnovers and some key sacks when we needed them," Colatruglio said, "and got some key stops."