The Mountain Home Tigers dug themselves into a 0-28 hole at halftime, before dominating the second half, but came up short, 12-35, to the Columbia Wildcats Friday night at Columbia High School in Nampa.
Columbia went on a 69-yard 12-play scoring drive to start the ball game, consuming nearly half the first quarter and scoring on a one-yard run by Nick Edenfield, a 270-pound lineman-turned-fullback. With the point-after try, the Wildcats led, 7-0, with 6:50 left in the first quarter.
Mountain Home went three-and-out on their first series. The punt was blocked, picked up by Columbia and ran into the end zone by Roland Sena. Wyatt Azevedo's PAT made it 14-0, Columbia, with 5:47 left in the first quarter.
The Mountain Home offense struggled all first half, not picking up a first down until nearly the final two minutes of the half.
Columbia scored twice in the second quarter, once on a 38-yard pass play when receiver Colton Storrs was left alone, and then on a 22-yard touchdown run by Mario Jenkins, after a pass interception gave the Wildcats good field position in Mountain Home territory.
Columbia into the locker room up 28-0 at the half.
Mountain Home received the ball to start the third quarter and had its best offensive series of the game, going 80 yards in 14 plays with Ben Ceccarelli passing to Malik Whitfield on a six-yard touchdown pass for the score. The PAT was no good, but the the Tigers were on the scoreboard, making it 28-6 with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
Mountain Home's defense held Columbia on downs and the Tigers got the ball back, but eventually were forced to punt the ball back to Columbia.
After a holding penalty put the Wildcats back on their eight yard-line, Columbia quarterback Austin Schaffer hooked up with his 6-foot, 6-inch, Stanford-bound receiver, Eric Cotton, on a 92-yard touchdown pass as the Wildcats increased their lead to 35-6 with 2:17 left to go in the third quarter.
Mountain Home kept Columbia out of the end zone the rest of the night and had a 68-yard 18-play scoring drive of its own that consumed 7:36 of the clock, with Ben Ceccarelli taking it in from a yard out for the score. The two-point conversion run failed and the score was 35-12 with 2:49 left.
Columbia was able to run out the clock the rest of the way.
"As I've said all along, we're a work in progress, getting better every week," said Tigers head coach Aaron Rodney after the game. "We didn't play very good in the first half and didn't come out ready to play. We were down 14-0 from the get-go.
"The defense played hard, they played hard all game, and for that, I'm extremely proud of them.
"We came out in the second half and I think we found a little bit of an offensive rhythm and were able to run the ball very well and mix it in with some play-action stuff and completed some balls.
"We're building this program up and take the positives. In the second half we went toe-to-toe with them and outscored them. We came up short in the overall score, but we've got to put a whole game together.
"We have a lot of potential. We have a lot of young kids that are finally starting to mature into their roles and are starting to come along, so we'll go back to the drawing board and get ready for Skyview and get after it and play hard." Rodney said.
"It's not what we wanted, but we've got to keep getting better each week. We were better this week than we were last week I thought, and we've got to keep moving the program forward and getting after it."
Mountain Home, which had just 35 yards rushing on 15 rushing attempts at halftime, finished the night with 139 yards on 45 rushes.
Ben Ceccarelli rushed 19 times for 62 yards and a score. Ryan Eckstrom had 62 yards on 16 rushes. Tanner Sessions had nine yards on nine carries and Malik Whitfield rushed once for six yards.
Ben Ceccarelli was 0 for 7 passing in the first half, with two picks, but ended the night 4-15 for 37 yards and a touchdown.
Levi Abrahamson caught two passes for 26 yards, Malik Whitfield had one catch for six yards and a score, and Malcolm Freer had one catch for five yards.
Columbia rushed the ball for 181 yards and passed for 210 yards.
Malcolm Freer led the Tiger defense with 7.5 tackles and a pass interception. Jared Cantrell had 6.5 tackles, one for loss.
Mountain Home had possession of the ball for over 16 minutes (16:19) in the second half, while Columbia had it for less than eight minutes (7:41).
The Tigers are home against the Skyview Hawks Friday night at Tiger Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.