The Columbus Explorers (3-0) kept their foot on the gas for all four quarters against the Miami High Stingarees, dominating them 42-6.
The Class 8A State Champions notched their third consecutive victory of the season, courtesy of their superb offensive and defensive line play, in addition to the chemistry between quarterback Fernado Mendoza and wide receiver Chris Gibert.
Here are my five takeaways from the match.
1 — The Columbus defense is oppressive.
The Explorer defense forced multiple three and out” and forced the Stingarees into many difficult third downs. The pass rush was swift and relentless, and the run defense held its ground throughout the game.
Columbus’ secondary broke up passes and forced many contested catches. This lethal combination of d-line and secondary stopped Miami High in their tracks.
“Discipline, fundamentals, listening to the coaches, and putting what we practice into how we play,” said Explorer cornerback Cornelius “Teejay” Wright.
2 — The Columbus offensive line came to play.
Pancakes and perfect pass protection were the story of the night. Ryan Rodriguez, anchor of the Columbus offensive line, told 305 Sports after the game, “My O-line is bringing the hope out of people.”
Explorer quarterback Mendoza was rarely under pressure and had clean pockets to make throws downfield. The run blocking allowed for the duo of running backs, Vershod Quinn and Denim Edwards, to run all over the Miami High defense.
3 — Mendoza showed solid decision making and accuracy.
Mendoza’s name is one that will be mentioned more moving forward as he shows off his strong poise and high football IQ. Gibert is another name to look out for, as he registered two touchdown catches early in the game to help the Explorers pull away. Mendoza to Gibert will make headlines this year.
4 — Columbus brought a balanced attack on offense.
Behind the strong o-line, there was a mix of passing and rushing attacks, and it led to the Explorers scoring touchdowns on six of their seven drives. The first drive was mostly pass driven and ended with a touchdown run by Quinn. The second drive was more run heavy and ended with a Gibert touchdown catch. The third drive saw big run gains mixed with successful passes downfield.
5 — The Stingarees are resilient and focused on developing their players.
The Stingarees lost their head coach, Corey Smith, to gun violence last month. Despite this major loss, senior Makai Lovett, a North Dakota University commit, wants to focus on developing his young team. He wants both physical and mental development. Lovett believes a more focused Miami High team commands respect and will remain competitive.
“We gotta make better tackles, we can’t be scared to play,” Lovett said. “That’s what happened today.”
Columbus will attempt to ride their momentum into their next match, a road game versus North Miami Beach. The Chargers are a formidable foe, having upset the defending 4A state champion Booker T. Tornadoes by a score of 20-14 in overtime Friday. Miami High looks to bounce back next week against a struggling Miami Jackson team.