Columbia Cougars Devour Lancers in 22-8 Victory
Saturday, September 22, 2012 • 7:48am
LIVINGSTON, NJ - Special teams usually go overlooked when discussing the importance of certain aspects of football. However, in a Friday night matchup between the Columbia Cougars and the Livingston Lancers, it was special teams that became the deciding factor. Livingston played a solid offensive game, and a nearly perfect defensive game, but it was two broken special team coverages that sunk the Lancers.
After a scoreless first half in which Livingston forced four fumbles, one recovered for a turnover, Columbia return man Manny Grant took back the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Running back Willie Malone converted the two-point conversion to give the Cougars an 8-0 lead.
The Lancers were unfazed by the quick score. Despite two early interceptions in the first half, sophomore quarter back Matt Gibbons drove into Cougars territory before facing a third and long.
After being rushed out of the pocket, Gibbons connected with a streaking Brett Birnbaum for a long 42-yard touchdown, the Lancers’ first touchdown of the season. Gibbons then found Bushwell for the two-point conversion to tie it at eight.
With momentum now on their side the Lancers forced a three and out and received the ball on their 30-yard line. After a first down on a quarter back sneak, the Cougars broke through the line and recorded a massive hit on Gibbons stopping the play and forcing the trainers to help him off the field. Third string quarter back Tyler Zuppa then handed off to junior running back Jake Rosenbaum for a two-yard loss before being forced to punt.
The Lancers then watched helplessly as returner Manny Grant once again weaved through the “swiss cheese” Lancers coverage recording his second touchdown of the night, this time on a punt return.
Livingston however stayed within 6 points due to Columbia’s failed two point conversion to make it 14-8.
Gibbons then re-entered the game but it made no difference against this inspired Cougar defense as the Lancers recorded another three and out.
With ideal field position, receiving the punt at their own 40-yard line, the Cougars proceeded to seal the Lancers’ fate. On the second play of the drive running back Marcus Nash burst through the Lancer defense and sprinted into the end zone on a 58-yard touchdown run. Malone once again converted the two-point conversion making it 22-8.
Livingston had one last chance to attempt a comeback though. After forcing a fumble at their own one-yard line with just over three minutes left the Lancers proceeded to drive down the field reaching their own 40-yard line. However, with the clock ticking down, Gibbons then threw three straight incomplete passes resulting in a turnover on downs.
Although his team suffered another heart breaking defeat, Livingston Head Coach Barry Kostibos remained proud of his team’s effort, “You guys played your [butts] off tonight. Good game by the offense, and defensively we have come such a long way, you guys played some really tough defense tonight.” The Lancers forced three turnovers on defense including two by senior Hunter Bushwell, an interception and a fumble.
With the Lancers dropping to 0-3, Kostibos is now faced with a possible winless record. It would be his second of his career as the Head Coach of the Livingston Lancers. Kostibos, however, remains convinced that won’t be the case.
“But we are going to get the win, we will get that win,” he said.