The Columbus Explorers and the Coral Gables Cavaliers faced off on Friday, October 28 at Tropical Park. This game meant much more than just any other game, however.
Every year for the past 50 years, Columbus has played Gables with Friday marking the 50-year anniversary since the Explorers’ first win over the Cavs. Both schools were unaware of the rivalry they had sparked, however. Columbus-Gables is now one of the most anticipated games of the year for both teams. And this year, with the district championship on the line, it was a must-win.
Gables came in to the game undefeated, sitting at 7-0 and ranked 79th in the nation. The Cavs were also ranked #1 in South Florida, but Columbus had something to say about that undefeated record. Despite the Explorers’ rocky season, many experts picked Columbus to win in upset fashion. Columbus has ridden a sloppy offense to a 5-3 record on the year with the big game coming up next.
Columbus struck the first two blows of the game. Quarterback Marcelo Rodriguez found Willie Davis in the flat to put his team up by seven and Miami commit Josh Jobe’s pick-six in the second quarter gave Columbus a comfortable two-touchdown lead. Rain delays plagued this one and seemed to work in Coral Gables’ advantage. The Cavs came back onto the field and returned their own interception for a touchdown, cutting the lead to seven.
In the end, it came down to a potential game-winning drive from Gables that Columbus stopped. In what was a low scoring, defensive match-up, Columbus’ “D” prevailed and handed Cavalier Nation their first loss of the 2016 season.
Along with being a rivalry match-up, this game also showcased a number of highly recruited athletes. Three Miami commits in Columbus’ Trajan Bandy and Josh Jobe and Gables’ Gilbert Frierson hit the field at DB for their respective teams. Canes fans better have been watching closely, because the future of the program was a part of the Columbus-Gables rivalry this year. Columbus has a number of other highly sought after recruits in Christopher Henderson Jr., Darren Davis Jr., and Hunter Moreno. Gables wide receiver Marlin Brooks has offers from several schools, as well, along with running back Johnny Ford.
This is not the last chapter of the book, however. Columbus took the district championship, but these two programs will most likely meet again further down in the playoffs. This means either Columbus will have a chance to prove themselves again, or Coral Gables will have a chance to redeem themselves.