The Columbia Middle School football team needed just two big plays to top Lakeside Middle School 14-0 in a battle of unbeaten teams Tuesday at Panther Stadium.
Having a bunch of big players certainly didn't hurt.
The Raiders defensive front had a distinct size advantage over the Panthers, and that made a big difference.
"It's true what they say - you win championships with defense," Columbia Middle coach Tony Kramer said. "Our defense did a tremendous job and came up with a couple of big plays."
Columbia's Rick Stahman intercepted a pass to thwart one Lakeside drives in the first half, and linebacker Kyle Golden added a 46-yard interception return for a score to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead at the half.
Lakeside's offense controlled the football most of the second half, but the Raiders refused to budge.
"They were real tough defensively," Lakeside Middle coach Dave Pitock said. "In the second half, we got it inside their 20 about three times, and we couldn't punch it in."
The Panthers were stout on defense as well, limiting Columbia to 97 total yards in the game.
The Raiders managed one scoring drive, which was keyed by a gadget play. Quarterback Brendon Gray pitched to Justin Hayes, and Hayes handed the ball to Russ Winter - the apparent reverse turned into a 32-yard completion, as Winter tossed a pass to Gray down the left sideline.
"We've been working on that play and saving it," Kramer said. "I couldn't believe it worked."
Gray finished the march with a short run to give Columbia a 6-0 lead.
Kramer also inserted a defensive game plan designed to stop Lakeside's option. Hayes moved from linebacker to defensive end, and gave Lakeside problems the entire game. His pressure on Lakeside quarterback Branden Barden set up Golden's interception return.
In other middle school football action Tuesday, Evans topped Harlem 16-14, and Riverside earned its first win of the season with a 14-8 victory over Greenbrier.
With the win at Panther Stadium, Columbia improved its record to 5-0. Lakeside fell to 4-1, but the race for the mythical middle school championship isn't over yet.
The Raiders and Panthers will square off this week for round two at Columbia Middle School.
"I'm glad we get to play them again," Pitock said. "I think our team is looking forward to it, and Columbia is looking forward to the challenge, to see if they can beat us again. Our guys feel like we can beat them next time."
For the Raiders, the task is to avoid complacency and cap an unbeaten campaign.
"I hope we don't get overconfident. That's the biggest thing at any level," Kramer said. "We've got an opportunity to do something special, but it's like I told my guys, we've got everything to lose."
The final middle school games of 2002 will be Tuesday at 5 p.m., and all three will be a reprise of last week's matchups. In addition to the Lakeside at Columbia contest, Greenbrier (0-5) takes on Riverside (1-4) at the Brierpatch, while Harlem (2-3) is at Evans (3-2).
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