High School Football

It’s ground and pound vs. wide-open attack as Wesclin challenges Columbia

In what should be a battle of highly contrasting styles, the Wesclin Warriors travel to Columbia on Friday looking to end the Eagles’ 19-game Cahokia Conference football winning streak.

Wesclin features a veer-style option offense that likes to pound things out on the ground using 6-foot-3, 230-pound fullback Jason Robinson as the main weapon. Columbia has more of a wide-open spread attack with plenty of quality choices for quarterback Drew Huebner to activate, including himself.

“I had two nephews (Sheldon Johns and Brock Johns) that played there, so I’ve been watching Columbia football for a long time and it always kind of looks the same,” Wesclin coach Ric Johns said. “They’ve got a great thing going there. If we were to take away any one facet of their game and compromise ourselves by doing so, I think it would be exploited early and often.”

Columbia coach Scott Horner is wary of Wesclin’s physical style up front and the strong running of Robinson, who has 405 yards and four touchdowns through three games.

“The kid’s an animal,” Horner said. “Their linemen are big and strong and extremely aggressive from what I’ve seen on tape. When I saw them against Nashville, (Robinson) had 27 (carries) for 140-something (yards) and he was just carrying people with him. They had trouble tackling him.

“We’re going to have to get a lot of bodies on him and find a way to bring him down.”

Columbia has not lost a conference football game since suffering back-to-back defeats against Central and Red Bud in October 2011.

FRIDAY’S GAME: Wesclin (2-1 overall, 1-0 in the conference) at Columbia (3-0, 1-0), 7 p.m.

LAST WEEK: Columbia beat Dupo 48-8; Wesclin lost 24-13 to Nashville.

RANKINGS: Columbia is eighth in the Class 4A state rankings and second in the BND Small-School Rankings; Wesclin is eighth in the BND Small-School Rankings

LAST MEETING: Columbia defeated Wesclin 37-14 in 2014 and 48-14 in 2013.

SCOUTING WESCLIN

Along with Robinson, the Warriors have more effective weapons with senior quarterback Hayden Rapien (8-of-16, 111 yards, three TDs; 176 yards rushing, three TDs) and senior slot back Blake Laird (224 yards rushing, three TDs; 7 catches for 106 yards, three TDs).

“Robinson’s a great athlete, a little bit like Justin Goff last year in that he’s a pure athlete as far as speed and ability,” Coach Johns said. “He’s learning how to be a running back, but I see improvement all the time.

“(Laird) takes great pride in his blocking, his pass routes and his running ... he’s a solid player and a great leader.”

SCOUTING COLUMBIA

Huebner (31-of-50, 531 yards, six TDs, no interceptions) is becoming much better at finding the open man and making quick decisions. A deep receiving corps includes elusive sophomore Jordan Holmes (12 catches, 178 yards, one TD), Lamont Read (three catches, 76 yards), Jonathan Holmes (six catches, 60 yards, two TDs) and Chris Wagner (three catches, 45 yards, two TDs).

Running back Kenny Fields adds 339 yards and five TDs on 48 carries.

Horner said Jordan Holmes has been an eye-opener.

“His awareness is equally as impressive as his athleticism,” Horner said. “We want to put the ball in his hands as quickly as we can. If you get him in the ball in the open field, he’s going to make at last one person miss and sometimes more than that.”

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at nsanders@bnd.com or 618-239-2454. Follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders.

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