Three weeks after suffering a torn ACL and being told his high school career was over, Colton Bryd helped keep the Columbia Eagles playoff hopes alive on Friday in a Cahokia Conference classic.
Byrd rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns — including the deciding score with 2 minutes 22 seconds remaining — as the Eagles rallied for a 30-26 win over Central.
Injured in the opening minute of the Eagles’ loss to Wesclin three weeks ago, Byrd entered the game on Friday early in the first quarter. He was the top running back in the Cahokia Conference a year ago when he ran for over 1,700 yards.
“I was fitted with a brace last week and given clearance to play on Monday. I’m feeling no pain right now. Tomorrow it might be a little sore,” Byrd said. “I’m probably not going to play college football and so being a senior, I really wanted to be out there with my team.’’
Central (4-3) had the last chance to win the game in the closing seconds. The Cougars moved inside the Columbia 30-yard line but with under 30 seconds left, quarterback Trent Nunn was intercepted by senior Jordan Holmes to clinch the win for Columbia
The victory moves Columbia to 5-2 overall and makes it playoff eligible. The Eagles can clinch a spot in the postseason by winning one of its final two games.
“I thought (Bryd) was done for the season. He gets fitted with a knee brace on his right knee last week, then he goes through practice and tests it on both Tuesday and Wednesday,” Eagles coach Scott Horner said. “I’m telling you, the kid must be bionic or something.
“It was one of the great efforts I’ve seen. I’m just so proud of the young man.’’
Horner also can be proud of his son, sophomore quarterback Nic Horner, who was 18 of 26 for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
Both scores came in the first quarter as the Eagles raced out to a 14-0. Holmes, who caught 10 passes for 170 yards, tallied on a 22-yard scoring reception as Columbia broke out to a two touchdown lead.
But Nunn and the Cougars bounced back. Completing eight of his first 10 throws, the Cougars senior fired a 12-yard scoring strike to Garrett Richter as Central closed to 14-7.
The offenses continued to dominate the rest of the first half. Byrd scored on a 5-yard run and Nunn scored twice to cut the Eagles lead to 21-20.
Nunn, who finished with over 140 yards rushing, led Central down the field to start the second half. Ripping off a run of 36 yards, Nunn scored on a 5-yard run with still 10:09 remaining in the third quarter.
The score gave the Cougars a 26-21 lead that they would maintain until Byrd capped the emotional night with his game-winning score on a a 1-yard plunge.
“I thought both defenses played well the second half. What was the score at halftime, 21-20?,” Central coach Brian Short said. “I’m proud of how our kids battled back and gave ourselves a chance to win the game late. We just had a few to many mistakes.’’