Columbian travels to Bellevue for crucial late-season tilt

Columbian remains in good position to make the postseason. It is 5-2 and sits as the third-ranked team in Division III’s Region 10.

But a loss to 2-5 Bellevue could change that.

The two rivals meet tonight at 7 p.m. It’s the second-straight road game against a league rival, and Columbian coach Judd Lutz said he understands the contest’s importance.

“We know what’s on the line; we know we’ve got to play well to keep our season going,” Lutz said. “We know the urgency, but we can only do it one day at a time, one game at a time.”

Columbian will look to bounce back from a final-second 24-21 loss at Clyde last week. Lutz said while the loss was disappointing, the players have responded.

“We had a good bounce back Monday and Tuesday with great focus,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t continue to lick your wounds and pout, because nobody cares. Got to get back on it, start winning the days, grinding out the good days, and I think we definitely did.”

Today will mark the second-straight start at quarterback for Nick Koerper, who has replaced the injured Chase Frankhauser. In a little more than six quarters as the signal caller, the former wide receiver has gone 3 of 6 for 110 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown pass. On the season, Koerper has run for 217 yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns.

“He’s ready,” Lutz said. “He made some great plays last week; made some throws he probably definitely wants back. But, you’re gonna take that with your first start sometimes. But he had a great week of prep, continues to get better, understands the offense a little bit more.”

He will be facing a Bellevue squad with a very deceiving record. In its five losses this season, only one has been by more than a touchdown. The Redmen’s last three losses have come by a combined 14 points.

“Their record does not reflect the type of season or team they’re having,” Lutz said. “We have definitely prepared for them to be a great game, to be a great team. We know we’ve got to play a great game in order to win.”

On defense, Columbian’s No. 1 job likely will be to slow down quarterback Keegan Ray, the Redmen’s dual-threat quarterback.

Ray has thrown for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns while being intercepted six times. He’s also one of the Redmen’s top rushers, going for 233 yards on 53 carries with a team-best five scores.

“We’ve got to have eyes on him,” Lutz said. “He does a lot of things throwing the ball, he does a lot of things running the ball. They’ve got great weapons around him, but it’s just a tough, hard-nosed team like usual.”