COLUMBIANA - This one hurt.
Suffering game-ending injuries to quarterback Nate Huk and all-around star Britton Steiginga, Columbiana found a way to get past Southern 26-14 in a key Inter-Tri County League lower tier game on Friday at Firestone Park.
Columbiana (5-1, 3-0 ITCL Tier 2) got 126 yards rushing, three touchdowns, an interception and fumble recovery from Steiginga before his exit with 8:20 left in the game.
Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said it was either a sprain or break on his left ankle.
"He's such a tough guy and has never been hurt before," Spaite said. "I just talked to the doctor and at least initially it doesn't look like a break. I think as dramatic as it happened it just scared him. We won't know until we get him to the ortho."
Huk had recently just returned from a knee injury suffered earlier in the year and hurt the same knee following a 27-yard touchdown run with 7:43 left in the second quarter. Spaite said it appeared likely that it was incurred during a post-touchdown celebration. He did not return after that play.
"We said at the beginning of the year there were three guys we couldn't lose," Spaite said. "That's Huk, Steiginga and Hacker. They're all really banged up right now."
Hacker, who had a one-handed interception in the first quarter, had suffered an injury last week against Sebring after he stepped wrong in a "gopher hole" according to Spaite.
His touches were limited against the Indians as the Clippers used a platoon system to try to replace him on offense.
Southern (4-2, 2-1) was bit by a serious injury of its own when immediately following Steiginga's departure, junior lineman Howie Bott hurt a knee and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
"He twisted his knee pretty good," Southern coach Mike Skrinjar said. "He's one of the toughest kids on the team and he tried to get up and the knee was buckling. It was limp. That was tough to see."
The Indians made a game of it and trailed 20-14 at the half after Jared Shilot made a stunning catch on his back in the end zone with 12 seconds left. Shilot fought off Garrett Patrick, who was called for pass interference, to pull in the score.
Plagued by three interceptions and two fumbles, the Indians did not use that momentum to their advantage. An interception by Conner Richardson with about nine minutes left in the third quarter put a damper on things the rest of the night. Steiginga scored his final touchdown off that pick to make it 26-14.
Richardson, a senior linebacker, jumped a short route and took Luke Griffith's pass back to the Indian 8.
"I was just in the heat of the moment there," Richardson said. "I can't describe it. I'm just thankful for the 10 other guys out there helping me and Britton scoring on the next play."
Richardson was mum though when asked if he thought he had a chance to race about 45 yards into the end zone.
"I'm not going to say," Richardson said.
Southern was looking for a significant win that would push them into a favorable position in the ITCL lower tier race. That will have to wait for another time yet again.
"That's football," Skrinjar said. "Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. Both teams played extremely well. A couple things put us in a bind here and there. We were playing catch up. It was a battle, but we showed we had backbone."
Luke Griffith, coming off a stellar performance against McDonald, was 22 of 40 for 229 yards to lead the Indians. Griffith also had a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter to put the Indians up 7-6. J.J. Napierkowski caught 13 passes for 171 yards and Shilot added seven catches for 52 yards.
Even though the Clippers are in a good spot in the ITCL lower tier, it will get extremely tough if injuries aren't healed quickly. The Clippers have Leetonia at home next Friday.
"It will be a grind next week," Richardson said. "Leetonia always plays us tough. That's a big rivalry."
"They'll play us like they're defending the wives and children against the Barbarians," Spaite said. "They play us with such passion it's crazy."
Southern hosts rival Wellsville on Friday.
The 50/50 prize was $220.
Cassidy Stoddard was named homecoming queen, while Hayden Sneltzer was named homecoming king before the game.
Columbiana came out on the field 20 minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. start. The game kicked off at 6:52 p.m.