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Highland looked to be in good position coming out of halftime on a rainy night in Columbus Junction. The Huskies were trailing 7-6, but had moved the ball well in the first half and did so to start the second half after receiving the kickoff.
A failed fourth down, however, started a snowball effect for Highland. Columbus scored on the very next play and then blocked two Highland punts, one setting up at the Highland six, and one resulted in a punt that went just five yards before being picked up by a Wildcat player. The result was a 21-point swing that the Huskies never recovered from in a 28-14 loss.
“It just becomes a huge snowball effect. They get the first blocked punt, and then they get the second blocked punt, and that was just a huge tide turner,” head coach Scott Morel said.
For most of the game, Highland was able to string together series of first downs, only to eventually stall out before reaching pay dirt. On the opening drive the Huskies got the ball after a fumble on the first play from scrimmage at the Columbus 41 before stalling in the red zone.
Another fumble allowed Highland to take the lead in the second (6-0), but that would be the only score of the half for the Huskies, despite moving the ball on almost every drive.
“It’s just a missed block here, a missed block there, and (Columbus Junction) made the play. We were getting, two or three yards a push, then we’d do something foolish,” Morel said.
“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
After the poor stretch, Highland managed to pick up their second score, as Mason McFarland managed to win a jump ball on the Columbus sideline on 4th and 7 to cut the lead to two scores at 28-14. The score energized the defense, who did what they needed to do stopping Columbus, but the offense struggled to get things going.
“They had the big plays,” Morel said simply.
All they could muster in the fourth quarter was a punt, an interception on a drive that drained a large chunk of time, and a turnover on downs with just seconds remaining. Brady Hahn was forced to play quarterback on the Huskies’ final offensive play as Trey Lasek got injured on a play that many of the Highland fans viewed as a late hit, causing a stoppage.
The play served as a boiling over point for fans, who were frustrated in long deliberations on too many penalties that they felt were tilted strongly to one side of the ledger.
“We can’t always put the game in the hands of the ref. We’ve always got to make sure we do the little things,” Morel said.
“We’re a young team, but that’s no excuse. It’s week seven. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to grow from these things.”
Despite the loss, Morel was happy to see there was no quit in his team.
“Happy with the way the boys competed at the end. They just kept on fighting and that’s what we talked about, fight every day,” he said.
Highland will have their final home game of the season this Friday as they face off against Louisa-Muscatine.
Louisa-Muscatine is currently 2-5 and won earlier this season over Columbus Junction 30-8.
Highland: Trey Lasek 9 yd rush (two point no good), 6-0 10:53
Columbus Junction: Abel Mana 1 yd rush (kick good), 7-6 3:08
Columbus Junction: Abel Mana 63 yd rush (kick good), 14-6 8:00
Columbus Junction: Nick Hernandez 1 yd rush (kick good), 21-6 6:14
Columbus Junction: Abel Mana 32 yd rush (kick good), 28-6 3:31
Highland: Mason McFarland63 yd reception from Trey Lasek (two point good), 28-14 1:37