By Craig Harper
For the Courier
LAKEWOOD — The defense looks improved, first-year quarterback Michael Tait is making the right decisions and completing almost 70 percent of his passes, and Columbine is playing with a purpose, determined to prove that last year’s substandard 7-4 record was an anomaly. But the biggest thing the Rebels have going for them remains Bernard McDondle.
The senior running back extraordinaire was the primary difference-maker Sept. 20 as No. 3-ranked Columbine beat Horizon 42-14 at Jeffco Stadium to take a 4-0 record into the Super 6 League opener against Arapahoe.
McDondle rushed 19 times for a season-high 265 yards and three first-half touchdowns as the Rebels built a 28-14 halftime lead and let their revived defense cool off Horizon quarterback Ayden Karraker in the second half.
“Bernard was pretty special,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said after McDondle, well on his way to a third-straight 1,000-yard season, improved to 728 yards and 11 touchdowns. “He just does some things that you don’t teach or coach. He’s a naturally great football player.”
McDondle scored from 26 and 79 yards in the first quarter and added a 33-yarder with 6 minutes, 59 seconds left in the half after Horizon (1-3) pulled to within 21-14 on Karraker’s second touchdown pass.
Columbine’s defense found an answer for Karraker in the second half. The Hawks’ junior passed for 171 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in the first half, but was 3-of-13 for 34 yards and a second interception after the break.
“Coach (Tom) Tonelli saw what they were doing and we made the adjustments,” said linebacker Reid Harris. “They were just rolling out, and we had to put some pressure on him and make him throw some bad throws.”
Columbine allowed 22.4 points per game last year, but just 15.0 in the first four games. Against the same first four opponents in 2013, that average is down to 13.3.
“We’re a lot more proud of our defense this year,’’ Harris said.
Tait, a junior, completed seven straight passes for 79 yards after missing his first two and added a 27-yard run prior to McDondle’s 33-yarder and a 5-yard option scoring run in the third quarter.
“He makes good decisions. Nothing chancy, just good decisions,” Lowry said. “That’s important to us at this point, to be able to spread the ball around a little bit and get a couple of other guys some touches and get them involved in the game a little bit more.”
Tait (21 yards), Larry Munson (59 yards, touchdown) and Jeremy Aparicio (45 yards, touchdown) helped the Rebels amass 397 yards on the ground.