Bulldogs can’t sustain strong start, fall in home opener

By Chris Yow

COLUMBIA — Despite a number of breaks going Columbia Academy’s way on Friday night — perhaps none bigger than playing a full game without a weather delay — the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize, giving up 29 unanswered points to Class 5A Shelbyville in a 29-7 loss. 

From the opening kickoff, the Bulldogs were on the receiving end of a fortunate bounce, as the kick bounced off the chest of Shelbyville’s Lakota Young and into the awaiting hands of Franklin Walker. Four plays later, CA quarterback Bryant Beranek dropped a dime to Collins Malone on fourth down for a touchdown. 

On the ensuing drive, Shelbyville had no answer for the Bulldogs’ defense, and were forced to punt. The kick, however, went only three yards, setting up Columbia Academy again near the red zone. A 15-yard run from Walker put the Bulldogs inside the Eagles’ 10-yard-line when coach Charlie Lansdell opted to send the field goal unit onto the field of 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard-line. With kicker Will Garrison standing behind the offensive line on the far side of the field, Beranek took the snap and fired a bullet to Malone on a slant route, but the coverage was too tight, and the pass fell incomplete, turning the ball over to the Eagles on downs.

“We had a chance on that second drive to get more points, and maybe I should’ve kicked the field goal there,” Lansdell said following the game. “But they’re a 5A school, and we’re a Class A team, and I thought we needed to get as many points as we could early in the game.”

Columbia Academy’s Chris Modeste intercepts a Kade Cunningham pass in the first quarter of the Bulldogs’ 29-7 loss to Shelbyville Central on Friday. (Photo by Vanessa Beach / SM-Tn Sports)

That would be the closest the Bulldogs got to the end zone for the remainder of the night. Shelbyville coach Josh Puckett said his team needed that stop more than they probably realize.

“We obviously didn’t get off to a good start tonight on offense, and that stop on the goalline was a big boost to our mental state at that time,” he said. “We may not have shown it immediately, but it was a turning point.”

Shelbyville continued to struggle moving the ball on offense for the majority of the first half, but when Kade Cunningham took over at his own 25-yard-line with under five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Eagles found a groove. They drove 75 yards on 12 plays, converting three third downs on the drive, and capped it with a strike from Cunningham to Gavin Donegan for a 16-yard touchdown. Cunningham, lined up in the same formation Columbia Academy attempted on its failed fourth-down play earlier, took the snap and barreled his way into the end zone for the 2-point conversion, giving his team an 8-7 halftime lead.

“Luckily we got on the board right at the end of the first half, and we got the kids settled down in the locker room during halftime,” Puckett said. “We were able to lean on our big guys up front the rest of the night to wear them down.”

Gavin Donegan hauls in a touchdown pass from Kade Cunningham just before halftime on Friday. (Photo by Vanessa Beach / SM-Tn Sports)

That’s exactly what the Eagles did. 

Columbia Academy began four of their five second-half drives in Shelbyville territory, and reached positive territory on all five drives, but could not finish with points.

“We had a couple turnovers and stopped ourselves a couple times. We were moving them around some, but they were bigger and deeper than us,” Lansdell said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way we fought, and we got better tonight.”

Columbia Academy takes the next week off before a grueling three-game stretch with Davidson Academy, Nashville Christian and University School of Jackson to open Division II-A West Region play. It’s games like Friday night when Lansdell believes his team learns the most.

“We learned what we need to do to improve tonight, and we found some things we think we are going to be successful doing,” he said. 

Shelbyville Central 29, Columbia Acad. 7
At Columbia Academy

SC 0 8 14 7 29
CA 7 0 0 0 7

Scoring Summary
First Quarter

CA — Collins Malone 25 pass from Bryant Beranek (10:14) Will Garrison kick

Second Quarter

SC — Gavin Donegan 16 pass from Kade Cunningham (0:22) Cunningham run

Third Quarter

SC — Cunningham 1 run (4:26) Harry Canter kick
SC — Donegan 27 pass from Cunningham (0:18) Canter kick

Fourth Quarter

SC — Demarcus Smalls 25 run (2:00) Canter kick

Team Statistics

First downs 21 7
Rushes-yards 43-263 28-64
Passing yards 118 50
Comps-Atts-Ints 8-12-1 2-9-1
Penalties-yards 7-44 3-25
Fumbles-lost 5-2 3-0

Individual Statistics

Shelbville Central — Demarcus Smalls 26-182, Kade Cunningham 10-55, Gavin Donegan 1-17, Laquan Young 3-15, Kendall Trice 1-0
Columbia Acad.— Franklin Walker 10-51, Chris Modeste 3-12, Max Ballard 4-9, Bryant Beranek 4-1, Will Garrison 2-1, Nathan Thomas 1-(-2)


Shelbyville Central — Kade Cunningham 8-12-2-1 118
Columbia Acad.— Bryant Beranek 2-9-1-1 50


Shelbyville Central — Elijah Moore 3-52, Gavin Donegan 2-43, Cayden Puckett 3-23,
Columbia Acad.— Collins Malone 2-50

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