AVONDALE -- Last season Greater Atlanta Christian crushed Columbia to start off its season. GAC did the same this year, but it had to work a little harder, earning a 35-26 win over Columbia Friday night in Avondale.
The Spartans got off to a rocky start when running back Lavondre Nelson fumbled the handoff from quarterback Jared Chapple on the opening play. Columbia's Antonio Montgomery picked up the loose ball and ran 26 yards for the first score of the game 15 seconds into the contest.
GAC 35, COLUMBIA 26
GAC 7 14 7 7 -- 35
Columbia 12 0 8 6 -- 26
Columbia: Antonio Montgomery 26 yard fumble return (kick failed) 11:45
Columbia: Keithon Redding 38 pass from Mials Woodbury (kick failed) 1:06
Greater Atlanta Christian: Lavondre Nelson 42 run (Connor Cox kick) :16
Greater Atlanta Christian: Jared Chapple 5 run (Cox kick)
Greater Atlanta Christian: Clay Metzger 5 pass from Chapple (Cox kick) :28
Greater Atlanta Christian: Kyle Scales 6 pass from David McTier (Cox Kick) 1:33Columbia: Redding 82 yard kickoff return (Woodbury pass to Jabari Menefee) 1:22
Greater Atlanta Christian: Chapple 1run (Cox kick) 7:13
Columbia: Menfee 40 pass from Marquez Gilmore (Conversion failed) 5:12
GAC struggled at various points in the game with mishaps and penalties.
"We looked really sluggish at first," GAC head coach Tim Cokely said.
GAC fell into a deeper hole when Columbia receiver Keithon Redding got behind the Spartan defense to catch a 38-yard rainbow pass from Mials Woodbury to put GAC behind 12-0, thanks to two missed extra point attempts by Columbia.
GAC sputtered through most of the opening quarter until Nelson took a handoff from quarterback David McTier and slashed through the defense for a 42-yard score to put GAC on the board.
McTier, who rushed for 87 yards on 10 carries, would get the Spartans' offense rolling with a methodical eight-play drive covering 59 yards and culminating in a 5-yard run by Chapple.
McTier continued to give the offense a spark with his legs as he cut through Columbia defenders on the Spartans' next drive.
Chapple also finished that drive, this time with his arm as he found Clay Metzger in the end zone for a quick 5-yard TD pass to give GAC its halftime advantage of 21-12.
"We got things going there in the second quarter, we fought hard for it," Cokely said.
The Spartan defense contained Columbia running back Kennon Loyal in the first half, limiting him to 18 yards on nine carries.
GAC committed 12 penalties but got a big play early in the second half to bolster its lead.
Kyle Scales made his presence felt in the third quarter with a 73-yard punt return that put the ball at the Columbia 20-yard line.
Scales finished the drive with a 6-yard TD catch from McTier to give the Spartans a 28-12 advantage.
Columbia responded quickly as Redding burned the Spartans again, this time on an 82-yard kickoff return to cut the GAC advantage to 28-20.
GAC controlled the ball on its next possession which included clutch third-down conversions and drive-sustaining penalties to put itself up 35-20 on another Chapple TD run. Columbia responded two minutes later with a 40-yard TD pass.
"We really have three quarterbacks making plays for us in this system," Cokely said.Junior Delano Spencer gained 42 rushing yards while playing quarterback.McTier led the team with 24 passing yards as GAC amassed 294 yards of total offense while yielding 154 yards including just one net rushing yard.
"We put our defense in some bad spots, but those guys played great." Cokely said."