Kansas GameDay: Galena travels to Columbus in CNC battle

Jace McDown (31) will try and carry Columbus past Galena. (Photo by Carolyn Eddington)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Sep 18, 2014

Share This Story:

Columbus and Galena are separated by about 20 miles and are just one classification apart. Both schools reside in Cherokee County, but the squads hadn’t played each other for many years. In seasons past, the teams were in different conferences and had trouble making schedules work.

But in 2012, Columbus joined the CNC league, a conference that includes Galena. The teams have played each other the last two falls and Columbus has collected 19-16 and 32-26 victories.

“Just made our league so much stronger,” Galena coach Beau Sarwinski said. “Being so close and being part of Cherokee County, Columbus, Galena, it’s just created a nice rivalry, a friendly rivalry, and I think their kids get excited about the game, as well as our kids do, too. It just creates a fun high school atmosphere, and really, it’s what high school football is all about.”

On Friday, Columbus, 2-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, II hosts Galena, 1-1 and just outside the rankings in Class 3A.

“Coach Sarwinski of Galena does a great job, and the kids, they just really get into it,” Columbus coach Dan Grundy said. “They are excited for this matchup. It’s been a physical game both years.”

This season, Galena brought back from 10 starters on each side of the ball from an 8-2 squad. Columbus has nine returning on offense and defense, also from an 8-2 team.

Sarwinski is 59-19 at Galena, a perennial Class 3A power which lost a tough, 16-12, game to St. Mary’s Colgan in Week 1, and defeated Girard 36-6 last week.

“A lot of our kids, they were expecting us to come out and just (think) that Colgan was just going to lay down,” Sarwinski said. “We told them all along that this is a good football team, and they are one of the top teams in our conference. We felt like they were as good as anybody we are going to face.”

Both games came at home. Since the start of the 2011 season, Galena is 12-2 on the road, including a 5-0 mark last season. Sarwinski is aware of the road success, but wasn’t sure of the reason. Just like 2013, the Bulldogs’ top playmakers include senior running back Gabe Helton and senior quarterback Kyler Cook, in his third year as a starter.

Sarwinski called Helton, who rushed for 1,216 yards as a junior, a back who combines power and speed. Helton has been banged up some this season and has had limited carries, but should be 100 percent Friday night.

“We just really are pleased with our kids’ effort day in and day out and work ethic,” Sarwinski said. “Just really proud of them. They are a talented squad, but again, we tell them every day, we’ve got to get a little bit better each day. It’s still early in the season, and we want to be playing our best football in Weeks 7, 8 and 9.”

Grundy is 40-25 in his seventh year at Columbus, but now 10-2 since the start of the 2013 season. Grundy said the turnaround has happened with strong summer work and a “great group” of juniors and seniors that have lifted weights and taken care of their bodies.

Columbus has made seven straight playoff appearances, but has never won more than one postseason contest in any season since ‘07. The Titans have never made it past the quarterfinals in school history, but are considered, along with Andale and Holton, the top three squads in newly formed Class 4A, Division II.

“In my time here, we played Paola twice, we’ve played Louisburg once – and their enrollments are double us easily,” Grundy said. “… We didn’t feel like we couldn’t compete there. We tried. You get that time of the year where you are having to play Thursday, and then the following Tuesday and then the following Saturday, and boy, on a school like us with numbers, that just is really tough to do.”

“We feel like that with this Division II, No. 1, the playoffs are now stretched out over Fridays, but then No. 2, just the fact that we feel like we can compete and maybe make a run.”

Last season, Trey Robinson played quarterback for Columbus in the win against Galena and completed 13 of 16 passes for 204 yards with two touchdowns against no interceptions. Robinson took over for dual threat signal caller Nate Bole after Bole suffered an injury. Bole finished with 780 passing yards and Robinson finished with 764.

This season, Columbus has used both quarterbacks – and plans to continue the tactic. The two have combined for 11 of 23 passing for 129 yards with no touchdowns against two interceptions.

“We have two great kids that are unselfish and know what is best for the football team,” Grundy said. “They have really just taken ownership of that, that hasn’t been a problem at all for our team.”

Bole ranks second on the squad with 16 carries for 115 yards and three scores, and Robinson is third with eight carries for 73 yards. Grundy said the formation dictates who plays quarterback; Bole also plays some at receiver and in running packages.

“There’s been years where we didn’t have a quarterback,” Grundy said. “You realize that you are so limited offensively, and the one thing we have noticed with having both of these guys, is we are able to do things in the run game and in the pass game that we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

Columbus’ 4-2-5 defense, with several all-state players and plenty of speed back, has allowed just 20 points in two games with a 34-6 victory against Southeast Cherokee last Friday and a 25-14 win against Chanute in Week 1.

Senior Taylor Watkins has 30 tackles, and senior Garrett Brittain has four sacks, all last week. Columbus has forced five turnovers and senior Kendal Hale – a left tackle and defensive back at 175 pounds – has a 65-yard interception return.

“I really feel like our defense has played very, very well, and with all of those kids coming back, that’s helped a ton, too,” Grundy said. “…We want our kids to play fast. If they play a mistake, someone who is behind them, they will take care of it for them.”


Use your Facebook account to add a comment or start a discussion. Posts are subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.