By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
To survive the brutal Heartland Athletic Conference Division II schedule, the Central Columbia football team had to show plenty of resiliency.
Never was that more evident than in the win that clinched at least a tie for the HAC-II title for the Blue Jays on Friday night.
After falling behind Lewisburg for the first time in the fourth quarter, Central Columbia calmly marched down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 2:13 left. The Blue Jays downed the Green Dragons 16-15 at Blue Jay Stadium.
“Our schedule and this league is such a meat grinder,” Jason Hippenstiel said. “But when I came back three years ago these kids were sophomores. They made it their goal to win something by their senior year. We’ve accomplished the first part of our goals this season.”
The Blue Jays improved to 7-1 (3-1 HAC-II) and clinched at least a tie for the title. Loyalsock is 2-1 in the league and still has next week’s game with the Green Dragons (6-2, 2-2 HAC-II) left.
Friday certainly looked like a typical Lewisburg game this season, start slow and finish big, as the Blue Jays took a 9-0 lead and held Lewisburg to just one first down until late in the second quarter.
The Blue Jays looked to extend their lead in the second quarter, driving into Lewisburg territory once again before Andrew Nash tipped a pass that Luke Smith intercepted. Smith returned it 36 yards into Central territory.
The Green Dragons drove 47 yards in seven plays to cut the lead to 9-7 on Nick Costagliola’s 3-yard TD run with 3:10 left in the second quarter.
There was a 42-minute thunderstorm delay in the third quarter, and neither team could score until the fourth.
Andrew Nash returned a punt 50 yards to the Central 37 to set up Lewisburg’s next scoring drive. Six plays later, Joey Gardner scored from 5 yards out, and a two-point conversion pass to Brandon Batman gave Lewisburg 15-9 lead.
The teams exchanged punts before Central got the ball back with 5:06 left in the game. The Blue Jays went 66 yards in six plays, taking 2:53 off the clock. Jordan Thivierge hit Jarrod Flick with a 24-yard TD pass on third-and-5. Dylan Hine’s extra point gave the Blue Jays a 16-15 advantage.
Lewisburg got the ball back with 2:06 left in the game, but the Central defense — which held the Green Dragons to just 168 total yards — didn’t allow a first down.