The penalty-filled game on both sides made the night long enough.
Unfortunately for the Escambia Gators, the outcome made it worse.
After getting a big-play, touchdown run from junior fullback Queven Dosunmu on their third offensive snap of the game, the Gators’ feel-good moment was short-lived in a 40-20 loss Friday against Lake City-Columbia at Emmitt Smith Field.
Columbia (2-3), which lost a year ago to Escambia in a wild, back-back forth game in Lake City, tied the game on the next ensuing offensive play, scored again on their next series and rolled through the second half.
“They had a lot of great athletes,” said Escambia coach Mike Davis, whose team fell to 1-4, but has yet to play a district game. “They are going to do well in their district. We just got to play better. The good thing for us, we 0-0 in the district and that starts next week.”
The game took more than three hours to complete. There were rarely sequences of plays without some kind of penalty called — a combined 16 flags in the first half — or indecision on ball placement that further delayed the game.
Each team had big plays nullified by flags. It made it difficult for the game to contain any kind of flow.
“That’s something we really can’t control,” Davis said. “So we’ll keep working on that stuff.”
There were two big moments in the game.
After Escambia’s defense forced a quick series on the opening series, the Gators’ Dosunmu burst through a hole on 3rd-and-4 from the 19 and outran everyone into the end zone. The Gators then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
But their drive ended on a fourth-down pass that was dropped at the Columbia 33.
On the next play, senior Kamario Bell broke free for a 67-yard touchdown that tied the game with 8:06 left in the quarter. He then completed a 65-yard drive with a 4-yard run around end for a lead the Tigers never lost.
“We jumped on them, but we didn’t put stops together and it was a mess up here or there,” Davis said. “It could be one person, but it always hurts us. It’s part of football and we just got to get better.
Trailing 21-7 at halftime, the Gators had a chance to get back in the game. On the first series of the second half, Davis called for a fake punt on a fourth down from his own 41.
Receiver Steven McGee converted the first down. Eight players later, quarterback Z’khari Blocker bulled his way in from the 2. The point-after kick, however, failed on a snap exchange, so the Tigers led 21-13.
Escambia cornerback Chris McCray then intercepted a pass at his own 7 to nullify a Columbia drive.
But the emotion and the game’s direction went back to Columbia on the next play. A botched pitch to McGee in the end zone became a 2-point safety for Columbia.
After a long punt return, Columbia quarterback Davin Shuck connected with Noah Ruise on a 15-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Tigers had 17-point lead.
“That was big,” Davis said. “We have to learn to capitalize when we have opportunities. We can’t get down when things go wrong. That’s part of being a good team. We’ve got to work on that.
“We are just waiting on people to make plays, and when that happens we’ll be in good shape. We are just waiting for someone to step up and be the guy.”
The Tigers added 10 more points with their next two possessions to blow open the game.