North Cobb Christian 14, Columbia 6

North Cobb Christian players huddle with their coaches during a fourth-quarter timeout in the Eagles' 14-6 victory over Columbia in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Nov. 11, 2022.

Credit: Chip Saye

Credit: Chip Saye

North Cobb Christian players huddle with their coaches during a fourth-quarter timeout in the Eagles' 14-6 victory over Columbia in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Nov. 11, 2022.

An unusual play on special teams proved to be the difference in a first-round Class 2A playoff game between North Cobb Christian and Columbia that was dominated by the defenses.

North Cobb Christian lineman Gabe Fortson recovered a fumble in the end zone for a 14-0 lead after Columbia tried to return a blocked field-goal attempt, providing the cushion needed for a 14-6 victory Friday night at Jacob Dennis Field in Kennesaw.

The victory puts North Cobb Christian (10-1), the Region 6 runner-up, in the second round for the fourth time in five years and improved its record to 4-0 all-time in home playoff games. The Eagles will be on the road next weekend against Region 7-2A champion and seventh-ranked Rockmart (9-2), which advanced with a 65-7 victory over East Jackson.

“It was a battle,” North Cobb Christian coach Matt Jones said. “They were trying to run the ball, we were trying to run the ball, back and forth, and it was a very physical game. We had five running backs that were just hobbled up, limping on and off the field. But we made a way with guys just chipping away.”

North Cobb Christian led 7-0 early in the fourth quarter when Finley Ross attempted a 42-yard field goal. Columbia got a hand on the kick, which then rolled downfield inside the 5-yard line. Columbia picked it up for a return but fumbled it, and Fortson recovered for the touchdown with 11:31 remaining in the game.

Columbia got its only points two possessions later, driving 76 yards in six plays and scoring on a 7-yard pass from Elijah Morgan to Saibian Campbell that cut the lead to 14-6 with six minutes remaining. Columbia got the ball back one more time, at its 31-yard line with 4:13 left, but fumbled on the second play. North Cobb Christian recovered and was able to run out the clock.

North Cobb Christian opened the scoring midway through the second quarter with a 14-yard touchdown run by Jacob Cruz to cap off an 11-play, 62 yard drive.

Both teams finished with less than 200 yards of total offense. Columbia had 184 yards, with more than half of those coming from running back Royce Tolbert, who rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries. Morgan was 9-of-21 passing for 78 yards.

“We want to be a defense-first school,” Jones said. “Our defense rises to the occasion every weekend. We just like to fly around and hit people. I was really scared because [Columbia’s] a really good football team that’s scored a lot of points this year, but we were able to hold them pretty good.”

North Cobb Christian finished with 175 total yards. The team’s two leading rushers this season, Jadin Coates and Trey Priester, were limited to a combined 73 yards on 25 carries. Quarterback Matty Go completed four of 10 passing attempts for 51 yards.

Columbia (7-4) opened the season with one of the biggest upsets of the year, a 13-10 victory at Class 7A Camden County, and went on to finish in third place in Region 5-2A behind Callaway and Eagle’s Landing Christian.

Columbia - 0-0-0-6 - 6

North Cobb Christian - 0-7-0-7 - 14

Second quarter

N - Jacob Cruz 14 run (Finley Ross kick), 7:30

Fourth quarter

N - Gabe Fortson recovered fumble in end zone (Ross kick), 11:31

C - Saibian Campbell 7 pass from Elijah Morgan (kick blocked), 6:00

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