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In search of six: Columbus seeks to extend win streak

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Joel Thomas

Columbus High sophomore Joel Thomas holds up Kearney quarterback Riley Miller by snagging his jersey in last weeks' win.

It's a classic trap game scenario. Columbus is coming off a win over Kearney for the first time in 18 years and plays No. 2 Bellevue West next week. This week is a road trip to Omaha and 1-5 Omaha Northwest.

Add in that CHS won at Northwest 64-0 two years ago and that the Discoverers entered the Lincoln Journal Star ratings for the first time in years this past week and the list of distractions continues to grow.

But coach Craig Williams says his team has found its way to this point largely by staying in the moment. The first thing that he and the team talked about when everyone was back together on Monday was a reminder of its ability to do just that.

"Friday was fantastic, it was a big win for our program, a big win for our kids. But it can't be the pinnacle of our season," Williams said. "We didn't come into the season trying to win a game in Week 6. We've got to keep pushing forward. It was a big step for us, but we've got three weeks left. If we don't keep pushing forward, that win won't matter."

Northwest started the year with a 21-14 win over Omaha Bryan before losing five straight. The Huskies were competitive in losses to Omaha Benson and Bellevue East but have been shut out the last two weeks. In the past four games they've scored just 13 total points.

But similar to previous opponents, the Northwest roster had capable athletes that could spark the team at any time. The fact that it hasn't quite come together recently offers no relief. If anything, Williams said, it's a matter of time before the Huskies figure it out. In the team time, his guys will be on guard to prevent exactly that.

"They're a little big unpredictable. They blitz a lot, they pin their ears back and they come after you. You might hit them one and get a big play, but that's not going to faze them. They're going to keep coming after you," Williams said. "... They've got some young guys out there, and they're growing up. They're going to make some plays because they are so aggressive, but you don't want to be that team that allows them to make a lot of those plays in the same game."

If any facet of the game has the potential to allow for Northwest to make a game-changing play it might be in special teams. CHS has had its fair share of splash plays in the kicking game, included a touchdown return by Dylan Crumley and two big returns by him last week. But special teams has also included two blocked punts and a low/mishandled punt snap. Playing a 1-5 opponent that has struggled is an opportunity to get right in many areas. Special teams is certainly one of those.

"Those are things that have to get cleaned up," Williams said. "Those are things that, after a big win, you can really catch the attention of your guys with and really get them to refocus."

Williams estimates Columbus hasn't won six games in a row since 2000. The Discoverers also haven't been listed in the Class A ratings, by his memory, in nine or 10 years. CHS, always looking for respect, is starting to get some. But winning streaks and rankings only mean so much in Week 7. More impactful is the effect the game has on a postseason berth.

A win Friday means Columbus is no worse than second in the district. The top two receive automatic playoff bids.

"We've kind of shifted our focus to, if we win this game on Friday we're an automatic qualifier for the playoffs because we'll be in the top two in the district with one game left. That's a big thing," Williams said. "That's one of the goals we have at the beginning of the year is to make the playoffs. I can't remember a team in recent years, and I can't remember a team in the last 20 years, that was an automatic in the last two weeks of the season."

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

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