COLUMBIA, Tenn. — An early two-touchdown deficit did little to deter host Columbia Central.
The Lions clamped down on Ooltewah after its quick start and defeated the Owls 31-13 in a TSSAA Class 5A football playoff quarterfinal Friday.
Columbia (11-2) will host Powell in a semifinal next Friday.
The Lions didn't score their first points until 5:55 before the half, but then they crammed 17 in before the halftime horn and took a four-point lead.
Chris Martin scored the first points on a 5-yard run, and Matthew Markham passed to Dre Hall over the middle for a 57-yard touchdown.
Ooltewah had the ball at its 16 to start a possession 55 seconds before halftime. After quarterback Brody Binder was sacked for a 6-yard loss, the Owls called time out. On the next play, Hall intercepted Binder at Ooltewah's 25, and it led to Nolan Bone's 42-yard field goal.
"There was not really any adjustments," Columbia coach Howard Stone said. "We just started making plays."
The Lions got a 1-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter from workhouse Martin, who finished with 120 yards on 27 carries. They tacked on a late touchdown with 1:30 to play.
After a Columbia three-and-out to start the game, Ooltewah's first possession began at its 42. It started with six consecutive runs by Desmond Pittman covering 33 yards.
"He scared us," Stone said. "We finally began flying to the ball."
Binder's first pass was a lob to Mike Williams, who outjumped the defender in the right corner of the end zone. It came on third-and-14 from the Lions' 29.
Ooltewah put together an 11-play, 63-yard march that Binder capped with a 5-yard bootleg around left end at 8:19 of the second quarter.
Pittman ran 18 times for 90 yards in the first half. He went out early in the third and finished with 21 carries for 101 yards.
"He's been hurt several weeks," Ooltewah coach Shannon Williams said of Pittman and his groin injury. "He's a courageous kid with the heart of a champion. His body just wouldn't do it tonight. He couldn't go anymore."
The Owls end their season 9-4, coming into the game having won seven consecutive.
"This team has come as far as any I've been around," Williams said. "They played with the passion you're supposed to play with. We're disappointed, but it's been a really good season. We became a pretty good football team toward the end of the year."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.