Galena slips past Columbus in battle of unbeatens

GALENA — Just as Galena and Columbus prepared to make a postseason push in district play, they had some unfinished business in the CNC League.

In a matchup of unbeaten teams, Galena had to withstand a furious Columbus comeback in the second half and needed a touchdown run from JC Shelton in the fourth quarter to capture a thrilling 33-29 victory Friday night.

“I thought our kids really played hard,” said Galena coach Beau Sarwinski. “Columbus is a great football team, and we weathered many storms during the game, as they did as well. We were just fortunate to make a few plays late and prevail. Our kids deserve all the credit.”

With that win, the Bulldogs remained perfect on the season at 6-0 overall while taking the upperhand in pursuit of a CNC championship with a 5-0 league mark. Galena opens up Class 3A-District 7 action this Friday as it entertains Cherryvale. The Chargers currently stand at 5-1 overall following a 22-16 home win over Caney Valley.

“It was a big game for our kids,” Sarwinski said. “They have worked hard year round to compete in games like this. The CNC league championship is one of our goals each year, and winning this game puts us closer to that goal. We are playing good football at the right time. Heading into district play, we are right where we want to be.”

Meanwhile, the Titans dropped to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the CNC. Columbus — which entered Friday’s contest ranked No. 1 in Class 4A-Division II — will host Baxter Springs in the District 4 opener this Friday. The Lions have won three straight games and are 4-2 overall following a 71-12 home win over Northeast-Arma Friday.

Galena had control of Friday’s contest in the first half, leading by as many as 19 points at 26-7 just before halftime. Yet, Columbus stormed back with 22 unanswered points and grabbed a 29-26 lead of its own following a four-yard touchdown run by Ridge Smith with 9:57 remaining in the contest.

The Bulldogs came right back, though, to reclaim the lead, marching 47 yards in seven plays. They capped off the possession with a two-yard dive into the end zone by JC Shelton to reclaim a four-point edge.

Columbus had one last chance to claim victory and moved into Galena territory. But with 30 seconds remaining, the Bulldog defense held the Titans on down and regained possession, running out the remaining time to take control of the CNC.

Earlier in the contest, Galena jumped ahead 12-0 in the opening minutes of the game on a pair of touchdowns — the first on a one-yard run by Joseph Helton and the second on a one-yard run by Shelton. Columbus did manage to get on the board later in the first quarter on a 64-yard scamper by Keenan Stanley to cut the Bulldog lead to 12-7 after 12 minutes of action.

Galena extended its lead with two more touchdowns early in the second period. The first came on a seven-yard run from Garrett Hall and the second on an 80-yard punt return from Shelton to open up a 26-7 edge.

The Titans did manage another score before halftime on a  55-yard run from Stanley. Despite trailing 26-14 at the intermission, Columbus carried the momentum into the second half.

CUHS picked up a 35-yard run by Stanley to narrow the gap to five and eventually grabbed its first lead on Smith’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Galena still managed to fight back to regain the advantage and was able to pick up the victory.

Although the Bulldogs came out on the winning side of the scoreboard, the Titans had the edge in total yardage at 359-258.

Both teams did most of their damage on the ground, with Columbus recording 288 and Galena finishing with 221. Stanley had a game-high 254 rushing yards on 21 carries with there touchdowns for the Titans, while Kooper Lawson led the Bulldogs with 94 yards rushing on 12 carries.