COLUMBIANA-After heavy graduation losses, the Columbiana football team entered this season having no idea what to expect from their offensive backfield. After six games, they appear to have found some answers.
In a glimpse at both the future and present, freshman quarterback Mitch Davidson accounted for 294 total yards and two touchdowns, while senior running back John Cramer ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns as the Clippers pulled away from Lisbon, 39-20, Friday at Firestone Stadium.
"I've felt very comfortable from the beginning of the season knowing that we had experience returning on the offensive line," Davidson said. "They have helped a lot as I've tried to settle in and learn the offense. Tonight the blocking was outstanding and John (Cramer) was running hard. It took a lot of pressure of my shoulders."
The Clippers have won two in a row after an 0-4 start. They are 2-4 overall and 2-1 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier, one game behind co-leaders Springfield and South Range. Lisbon slips to 2-4 over and 1-2 in the ITCL upper tier.
"When you play for Columbiana, being 0-4 is never what you have in mind," Cramer said, "It's awesome to feel like we are back on track with a couple of wins. A weight has definitely been lifted off our shoulders."
It was Cramer who set the tone for the Clippers right off the bat. After Chris Dirk returned the opening kickoff to midfield, Cramer ripped off a 23-yard run and scored from seven yards out on the next play to give Columbiana a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
Early in the second quarter it was Davidson's turn to supply the electricity. The freshman kept the ball on a read-option found a hole on the right side and streaked down the sideline for an 83-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
"The line made it really easy for me on that one," Davidson said. "I had a big hole and the rest was just beating the last defender. It was a tremendous feeling running down that sideline."
The Blue Devils countered with two big plays of their own to close things up before halftime. Immediately following Davidson's score, sophomore quarterback Josh Liberati lined up at running back and sprinted 52 yards up the middle for a touchdown to make it 14-7. After the Clippers answered with a one-yard touchdown by Cramer, Lisbon struck right back with a 56 yard run by freshman running back Jason Thompson to make it 20-13 at the half.
Liberati led the Blue Devils with 127 yards on the ground while Thompson sprinted for 119 on just nine carries and two touchdowns.
"We had some young guys step up," Lisbon coach Jim Tsilimos said. "That was the best thing to happen tonight. Jason really got in there and showed a nice burst."
The Clippers came out of the locker room and imposed their will in the third quarter, chewing up most of the clock with two drives to put the game out of reach. Davidson capped off the first one with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Sean Congemi to make it 26-13.
After a Lisbon punt, Davidson found wideout Dalton Miller on a flanker screen, and the sophomore did the rest, breaking several tackles on his way to a 66 yard touchdown to put the Clippers up 32-13.
"I can't say enough about our guys up front on the line in the third quarter," Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said. "Lisbon did some good things, but our guys kept playing."
"That was great to keep Lisbon off the field like that," Columbiana senior lineman Steve Kurilla said. "That's the best feeling for an offensive line."
Lisbon hosts United next Friday, while Columbiana trains it's sight on league-leading South Range,as the raiders invade Firestone Stadium.
"I'd like to enjoy this one a little bit before I worry about South Range," Spaite said. "They will be a handful, but tonight was a great team win."
LISBON: 0-13- 0-7-20
C-John Cramer 7 run (Nate Garofalo kick)
C-Mitch Davidson 8 run (Garofalo kick)
L-Josh Liberati 52 run (Jannik Schmidt kick)
C-John Cramer 2 run (kick failed)
L-Jason Thompson 56 run (Schmidt kick)
C-John Cramer 19 run (pass failed)
C-Mitch Davidson 66 pass from Dalton Miller (pass failed)
C-John Cramer 3 run (Garofalo kick)
L-Jason Thompson 22 run (Schmidt kick)
First downs 816
Total Yards 289480
RUSHING-Lisbon, Josh Liberati 21-127, Jason Thompson 9-119; Columbiana, John Cramer 24-135, Mitch Davidson 8-121.
PASSING-Lisbon, Josh Liberati 3-10-34-1, Colin Sweeney 1-4-7-0; Columbiana, Mitch Davidson 8-17-173-0
RECEIVING-Lisbon, R.J. Egelhof 2-22; Columbiana, Dalton Miller 2-71, John Cramer 2-41.
INTERCEPTIONS-Columbiana, Dalton Miller.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Lisbon, Danny Shultz. Columbiana, Steve Kurilla.