TC?lights up Harding

MARION – For $50, $100 or $500, Marion Harding fans, groups or businesses can sponsor the fireworks that go off during the national anthem and when the team runs out on the field at the start of the football game.

So while the Presidents were impressive in the pregame with their explosions and colorful night sky theatrics, it was Columbian’s Donovan Walker who sponsored the spectacular grand finale.

The Tornadoes’ quarterback lit up the field and the scoreboard with 261 total yards and five touchdowns in a 35-6 beating of the Presidents.

One firework the fans didn’t get to see was L.J. Scott, the Presidents’ best firework and University of Louisville commit, was out with a bum ankle. Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio said his team wasn’t prepared for that.

“We were a little flat. We kind of focused our whole week on stopping L.J. and then we get here and he’s not playing,” Colatruglio said. “I don’t know if it kind of deflated us or what. We came out flat and gave up a score right after that.”

That showed on the first drive as the Presidents (3-6) drove 43 yards in nine plays with Logan Crawford plunging in from a yard out to give Harding a 6-0 lead on the first possession of the game.

It was the last highlight of the night for the Presidents as Walker was ready to take over the show.

On the second play from scrimmage, Walker busted it outside and raced down the right sideline 74 yards for a touchdown, just 21 seconds after Harding scored. Logan Pauley tacked on his first of five extra points after that to give Columbian (8-1) the lead for good, 7-6.

“That’s all on us. It was a great run by him,” Harding coach John Brady said. “We had two sophomores who haven’t played a lot of football line up wrong and they took advantage of it. It looks like they checked off and went back to boundary and he went down the sideline. One missed tackle and there he goes. He’s a heck of a player, too.”

It was Walker again on the next possession with a 7-yard run and a 14-6 lead heading into the second quarter.

Walker put on the aerial show for his final three TDs.

The first went to Nate Hoyda for 12 yards to put Columbian 21-6 up at halftime.

In the third quarter, he connected with Derek Dryfuse (34 yards) and Cody Kimmet (57 yards) for Columbian’s final two scores.

“I thought our kids came out and fought hard even though we’re missing nine starters to injury,” Brady said. “It’s just an excuse. We still played all right in the first half. We didn’t do a very good job defensively. We didn’t do a very good job tackling. Tiffin is a good football team. They’re not ranked in the state and the region for nothing.”

While Harding may have owned time of possession, it didn’t show up in the stat book as Columbian out-gained Harding 390-186 despite running 18 fewer plays than the Presidents. The Tornadoes were even more efficient with their penalties, with just 62 penalty yards on eight calls while the Presidents were recalled four times for 50 yards.

“Especially offensively, I really like how efficient we were tonight,” Colatruglio said. “We didn’t run many plays but we scored the first five times we had the ball. We were taking what they gave us and making some good plays.

“I think time of possession they probably killed us,” he said. “They had the ball the whole game it seemed like. A couple of dumb penalties and things like that that kept them on the field that we have to correct.”

Walker finished with 166 yards on 7 of 13 passing and another 95 yards rushing on five attempts.

Keyontay Rogers tried to pick up the slack in Scott’s absence with 86 yards on 27 carries.