By CONOR NICHOLL
A Kansas high school football playoff yearly trend is rematches. Perennially stronger conferences and district teams normally face in the regular season and again in the playoffs. That’s especially true with the CNC league and Class 3A, District 1 in southeast Kansas.
In 2016 and ’20, Columbus had promising eight-win seasons end in the playoffs. On each occasion, the Titans defeated Girard in the regular season, and fell to Girard in the postseason.
This year, though, Columbus opened 1-5 and lost four straight, tied for its longest losing streak in 20 years. That included a 14-point loss to Galena in Week 4. However, Columbus has now won four in a row, including a pair of upsets.
In district play, the Titans earned a huge 30-6 win against Parsons in Week 7. Per Massey Ratings, a nationally recognized statistical site, Columbus was a nine-point underdog.
After a Week 9 win at Burlington, the Titans rematched with Galena last week in Class 3A Round of 16.
Columbus opened the game with a 16-play drive, and unlike the Galena loss, controlled the clock and time of possession.
The Titans won, 21-14, and bumped into the Class 3A quarterfinals. It marked the first time since 2011 that Columbus lost in the regular season and defeated the same team in the playoffs, per Kansas Football History.
That year, Columbus lost to Parsons, 20-12, in the season opener, and then won 41-13 in the playoffs. It also happened in ’09 when Columbus fell by one to Coffeyville in the regular season and won by eight in the playoffs.
Columbus, paced by senior quarterback Brett Hamilton, senior receiver Cole Minor and senior all-purpose player Landin Midgett, pulled off one of the bigger upsets of any 11-man Round of 16 game.
Midgett was out last year with a broken leg. He’s been a key player on both sides and showed good leadership.
Many of the Titans’ standouts were key for the 3A state runner-up baseball team last spring, the first CHS baseball team to advance to state. Midgett has committed to Coffeyville CC baseball as a catcher.
Head football coach Blake Burns, a Columbus graduate, has spent many years on staff, first as an assistant.
Massey Ratings listed eight 11-man upsets from last week. Four involved Kansas City-area 6A schools. The other ones were: 5A Hutchinson over Bishop Carroll, 3A Clay Center versus Wichita Collegiate and 2A Humboldt against Osage City.
Like Columbus, Humboldt avenged a regular season loss. Columbus (5-5) is probably the biggest surprise quarterfinalist for any class. The Titans will play host to 3A No. 4 Topeka Hayden (9-1) in the quarterfinals Friday.
In the Galena loss, Columbus ran 47 plays, 16 fewer than Galena. The Bulldogs gained 412 yards, 379 on the ground. In the win, Columbus delivered 60 plays, 17 more than Galena, per Hudl and SIK research.
Columbus held Galena to 222 yards, including 174 on the ground. The Titans did not commit a turnover and were plus-two in turnover margin in last week’s victory.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Hamilton rushed 31 times for 125 yards and two TDs. He set a career high for single game carries. Minor caught a long TD pass and finished with three catches for a career-best 133 yards and the score.
This is one of the best football finishes in Columbus history. Columbus has four quarterfinal showings: ’78, ’98, ’07 and ’22. The Titans were state runner-up in ’14 and semifinalist in ’15.
Columbus has nearly identical points for and against compared to last year’s 4-5 team that featured Shrine Bowl defensive lineman Kody Schalk, now at Pittsburg State. The Titans has average 24.8 points a game and allow 22.2. Last year, the Titans scored 24.3 and allowed 22.5 a contest.
Hamilton has completed 97 of 205 passes for 1,441 yards with 13 scores against nine interceptions. As well, he paces Columbus with 133 carries for 651 yards and 12 TDs. Midgett has 88 touches for 745 yards and seven scores. Columbus has four seniors on the offensive line.
The top-five tacklers are seniors: Midgett and Jaydn Hale lead with 98, Fischer Troxel has 70, Minor has 57 and a team-high 10 TFLs, and Kayden Cox has 53.
Columbus has forced 21 turnovers. Last year the Titans created 12. Senior Cade Saporito had five interceptions, and Midgett has three.