FALL RIVER — After letting the Columbus football team get close, closer and all the way back in the fourth quarter Friday night, Lodi’s Chandler Curtis remained calm.
The kicker delivered a 24-yard field goal with 7 seconds left to give the Blue Devils a 17-14 victory over the comeback-minded Cardinals in a battle of unbeatens on Fall River’s turf field.
“It was scary, and a little hairy here and there, but a win’s a win,” said Lodi coach Dave Puls, whose team improved to 5-0 and dropped Columbus to 4-1. “We’ll take it.
“Playing Columbus, that was a battle. They are the real deal. You play this team 10 times and it’s probably five wins and five losses. Seriously, it’s right down the middle. This is two very even-matched teams.”
The last time the teams met, mid-season in 2019, Columbus beat the Blue Devils to start a three-game winning streak that took it to the WIAA playoffs. It also started a losing streak that left Lodi outside of the playoffs.
“That was on our mind all week in practice,” Lodi quarterback Quinn Faust said. “We came out here and we wanted to get them back for that.”
Columbus coach Calvin Zenz said this loss stings “a lot” since it’s at the hands of the Blue Devils.
“Whenever you lose to Lodi, it stings,” he said. “It’s a big game. We work 12 months a year, or in this case in 18 months, to try to beat them.”
The final field goal was set up by a 36-yard pitch-and-catch from Faust to Curtis to put the Blue Devils at the Columbus 21. Lodi ran down the clock for three more plays before trying the field goal.
Faust threw for 68 yards, a touchdown and an interception while completing 13 of 20 passes. With 1:53 left in the first half, he hit Chance Meier for an 8-yard TD pass to make it 7-0.
The final quarter was mayhem. Early in the fourth, Columbus blocked a punt inside the red zone that set up a 28-yard field goal by Corbin Hynes to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 9:11 left.
Three plays into the ensuing Lodi offensive drive, running back Lucas Heyroth busted through the Columbus defense for a 78-yard touchdown run to put the Blue Devils up 14-3 with 7:23 left.
The big run added to a big total for the junior running back, who finished with 242 rushing yards.
“The 78-yard touchdown run where we had five guys on him and we didn’t finish it, that’s what changed the game,” Zenz said. “We make that tackle and we win the game.”
The Cardinals responded with a 10-play drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Will Cotter. Cotter then hit Colton Brunell for a two-point conversion to make it 14-11 with 4:06 left.
Columbus cornerback James Mobry intercepted Faust on the ensuring drive and returned it to the Lodi 10 with 2:26 remaining. Hynes made a 25-yard field goal with 1:40 left to tie the game 14-14.