LATHAM Section II football fans might not have been aware of how good Columbia had become prior to Friday night's game against Shaker, but the Blue Bison knew.
Columbia gave Shaker everything it could handle and then some in Friday night's Liberty Division season opener in Latham before the Blue Bison prevailed 32-28.
Columbia (0-1) struggled to earn wins last season, but with several returning players on both sides of the ball, the Blue Devils looked more competitive in their loss to Shaker (1-0) than they did during most of 2010. Columbia led 20-6 at one point in the first half and had a 28-25 advantage in the fourth quarter until Shaker tailback Tyler Oppelt scored on a 14-yard run with 1:19 left in the game.
"We knew they were going to come out real strong, fast and physical," said Shaker junior running back/linebacker Ryan Griffin. "We just had to adjust to it."
"My hat's off to Columbia. They're a great team," said Shaker coach Greg Sheeler. "I don't look at it as our defense got torched. They're a well-coached team, and they are going to get some wins this season."
Columbia used its ground game to build its two-touchdown lead in the first half. The combination of junior tailback Kenny Mathieu hitting the outside corners and junior tailback Christopher Smith running up the middle helped the Blue Devils take control of the field and the clock. Senior quarterback John Stanley helped the cause with a pair of touchdown runs.
Shaker's offense came alive late in the second quarter when junior quarterback Chris Landers connected with senior wideout Adrian Valentino on a 65-yard touchdown pass. A blocked field goal by Shaker as time expired in the first half helped the Blue Bison enter the locker room with only a 20-12 deficit.