Columbus Football 9.6

Left to right, Columbus High defenders Garrett Esch, Mason Moore and Noah Stoeckle jog off the field after a stop at North Platte on Friday.

Columbus High football is 2-0 for just the third time in 10 years. A dramatic overtime win full of mistakes in Week 1 gave way to a more consistent performance in a Week 2 road victory.

The Discoverers were 2-0 as recent as two years ago. But before then, the last time was 2012 when the team defeated Schuyler and Seward, and then went winless the next two months.

But just how much value can be placed in wins over Norfolk and Fremont? Following Friday's home game against Elkhorn then a road contest on Sept. 20, district play begins with a gauntlet that includes four teams inside the Class A top eight in the latest Lincoln Journal Star prep ratings.

Who is Columbus really? According to coach Craig Williams, not all the different from what he and his staff expected, at least so far.

"The defense is really playing well. We felt like we could be pretty good on defense, and I think they've lived up to expectations. Offensively, I think we've lived up to expectations," Williams said on Monday. Once we got past those turnovers in that first game, I think we're at where we thought we would be offensively, as well.

"We can move the football, and we've got some weapons out there. We just need to get the ball in those kids hands. I think the kids have a little confidence going into this week."

Defense has been the more even of the two. Though Columbus gave up 24 points in Week 1, 14 of those came on offensive turnovers. The other seven on a kickoff return.

Week 2, North Platte didn't score until there was 8:13 left in the game. The Bulldogs picked up 160 of their 323 total yards when the game was decided and Williams had emptied the bench.

The offense was also much more in line with Williams expectations. Penalties remained, but Columbus kept the ball off the turf and quarterback CJ Fleeman kept passes away from defenders.

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Defense is where Williams is most pleased. With several weapons to run, catch and throw, he wanted to see the development of players who could also pursue, tackle and create turnovers.

"We were expecting the defense to make us a more balanced team," he said. "We're not the biggest team out there, but we're trying to get more physical with our kids. That physicality allows our athleticism to make a difference in these games."

The offensive line was another element Williams was somewhat uncertain about before kicking off the season. He believed in the personnel but planned on a learning curve. The front five made a big step toward that curve, he said, at North Platte where Columbus rushed for 288 yards on 39 carries, more than seven yards per rush, and mostly kept Fleeman clean, save for two sacks.

The Discoverers were good for 294 rush yards against Norfolk, and over 500 yards total but were much more in line with fundamentals and the game plan a week later.

He added that run defense has been better than in recent years.

"Our coaching staff has really preached being physical and being assignment-sound on both sides of the ball. Early on in preseason, there were some question marks there, but the kids are really starting to buy into it," he said. "They just need to continue to go out there and do their job, and along with that, trust that the guy next to them is going to do his job.

"If we can keep doing that, and play team football, we'll be in good shape."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com.

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