Sandy Creek got out to a commanding 23-0 lead on first-round opponent Columbia High School, eventually hanging on for a 23-14 victory. The win over the Columbia Eagles made them the only local high school to advance to the second-round of the state playoffs.
The Patriot offense has sputtered in recent weeks after several years of dominance, but found their footing in the first half against Columbia, piling up yards on the ground.
Sandy Creek head coach Chip Walker said his players brought the necessary playoff intensity in the first half but tailed off in the second. “I thought we didn’t play quite as hard,” Walker said of the second-half effort, “and we let them get that one play, and kind of sparked them, and we talked about not doing that. That sparked them, and we didn’t respond in the right way.”
Walker said he prepared his team for big plays against an explosive Columbia squad.
“They’re very athletic. We wanted to come out here and take care of ourselves, and we did that in the first half. We just didn’t in the second half,” Walker said.
The Patriots took care of business early, rolling to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Marvin Hubbard would punch in the first touchdown from five yards out. Star running back Eric Swinney would follow that up with a 75-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter to give his team a 14-0 lead.
Sandy Creek kicker Arnol Spaniol tacked on three field goals to give his team a 23-0 lead going into the half. Spaniol has been very effective kicking for his team this year, including an impressive performance the week before against Fayette County, in which he nailed five field goals.
Walker is proud of his kicker for making his field goals but said his team has to work on punching the ball in the end zone once they’re in range.
“The biggest thing to work on is red zone offense,” Walker said. “We’ve gotten down inside the 20-yard line the last few weeks and not gotten touchdowns and had to kick field goals, so we want to work hard on red zone offense.”
Columbia got the big plays that Walker referenced early in the second half, converting a long pass from their own 15-yard line to midfield and then following up with a long touchdown to make the score 23-8.
Columbia would continue to make plays in the second half, eventually scoring again early in the fourth quarter to make it 23-14.
Holding onto a seven-point lead, the Patriots needed their defense to step up. They managed to do so over the last ten minutes of the game.
While Columbia continued to threaten, the Patriot defense stayed strong with great pass defense and a big hit by Will Harper on a crucial drive.
Sandy Creek was able to run the clock out to seal the victory in what they hope to be the first of several this postseason.
The Patriots finished the game with an impressive 291 totals yards rushing. Swinney led the way with 176 yards and one score on 30 carries. Austin Vazquez followed with 51 yards on nine carries, with Drezyn Parson adding 44 on eight carries. Hubbard tallied 21 and one score on five carries.
Coach Walker has been stressing to his team the need to execute throughout the game, particularly on offense. Their ability to execute will be tested next week against Wayne County.