The Beech Buccaneers won a defensive slugfest 6-3 over the visiting Columbia Lions in the first round of the Class 5-A state playoffs on Friday night.
The Beech defense was able to keep the Lions out of the end zone, only surrendering a first-quarter 28-yard field goal by Josue Guerra.
“They kept fighting,” Beech head coach Anthony Crabtree said of his defense. “They got a bunch of stops. To hold that group to a field goal is a good job by our defense.
“They’re a really good team,” Crabtree continued.
The Lions fed the Beech defense a steady diet of sophomore running back Christian Biggers, who gained 144 yards on 27 carries for the game. Columbia unofficially finished with only 152 yards total, rushing and passing.
The key to the Buccaneers’ defensive performance was “everyone doing their job,” said senior safety Brian Colon. “If everyone performs their job, then we’ll do great.”
While the Beech defense was keeping Columbia out of the end zone, the Columbia defense kept the Bucs’ vaunted rushing attack bottled up for most of the game.
“To be honest, they kind of out-physicaled us a little bit,” Crabtree said of the Columbia defense.
Columbia held Beech senior running back Ja’Sean Parks to only 67 yards on 25 carries.
For the game, Beech gained 165 on the ground and another 34 through the air.
“Our attitude is always defense first,” Colon said. “I have faith in my boys on offense. If they’re struggling, we always pick them up on defense.”
The only crack in Columbia’s defense came with: 50 left in the second quarter when Beech junior Tysean Jefferson took the ball around the right end, finding a seam in the defense and raced 47 yards down the sideline to paydirt, giving Beech a 6-3 lead. It was Jefferson’s only carry of the game.
Neither team could score the rest of the game, though the second half held several scares for both teams.
Early in the fourth quarter, a low snap got by Columbia quarterback Brady McCanless, who beat Beech senior Asher Talbot to the ball, recovering it at the Lions’ 3-yard line. Columbia was able to punt the ball away from danger.
On the Lions’ next drive, Colon broke through to block a punt with Beech’s Adrian Johnson picking up the ball and returning it to the Columbia 35-yard line.
But only four yards on three carries by Parks and an offsides penalty on the Bucs forced a Beech punt that was downed at the Columbia 3.
On the next play, Biggers broke through the defense and into the open, racing 45 yards before Jefferson could run him down from behind.
But the threat ended three plays later when Beech senior defensive back Brendan Segura made a diving catch to come up with an interception.
Columbia had one last chance when they forced Beech to punt with 2 minutes left in the game. But Roman Woodson dropped the punt, and the ball was recovered by Beech.
The Bucs ran out the clock to seal the victory, improving their record to 11-0 and moving them on to the next round of the playoffs, when they will host Shelbyville next Friday.
“The defense will have to continue to play well,” Crabtree said. “On offense, we’ll have to find a way to score more points.”
Against the Golden Eagles, Beech will have to do “the same thing we did this week,” Colon said. “Line up and play smashmouth football.”