By MARK ALTSTAETTER
L?IMA — With the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, the Columbus Fire, coming to Lima Stadium on Saturday night, the Lima Warriors knew it was going to be a battle.
The Fire ran the ball effectively, rolling up 209 yards on the night en route to a 21-12 victory over the Warriors in Heartland Football League action.
In 2012, the Fire defeated the Warriors 28-21 to win the HFL Championship.
Defensively on Saturday, Columbus (8-0, 5-0 HFL) held the Warriors to just 33 rushing yards and 124 yards in the air.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back (2007-2009) Gary Russell led the Fire with 168 yards rushing on 21 carries and had two touchdowns. Russell recorded 140 of those yards in the second half. He had a 60-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring for the Fire.
After being relatively quiet in the first half, Russell took it over in the second half.
“We went into halftime and we knew we had to make some adjustments,” Columbus coach Clinton Wallace, Jr. said. “With (us) missing a few key people on the line, we just depended on our running game in the second half. You have to feed the monster (Russell). He’s heating up (in the second half), so you just have to keep giving it to him.”
Russell, who also played for the Raiders in 2010, gave credit to his teammates in the trenches.
“You always have to give it (credit) to the offensive line. Without them, you can’t go anywhere. The offensive line did a nice job and we got the ‘W’.”
For the Warriors (4-2, 4-1), quarterback Billy Cozad led the running attack with 21 yards on nine carries. Cozad completed 7 of 27 passes.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Warriors struck first.
Cozad found Jay Johnson open for a 25-yard scoring strike. The point-after was blocked and the Warriors led 6-0.
Columbus responded on the ensuing kick-off.
Aaron Davis took the kickoff on the 30-yard line for the Fire, found a seam and rambled 70 yards for the touchdown. With the point-after, Columbus led 7-6.
The Warriors answered.
With 1:11 left in the second quarter, Lima regained the lead on an 8-yard run by Cozad, capping off a 7-play, 67-yard scoring drive. Lima opted to go for the 2-point conversion, and the pass failed, making the score 12-7 Lima.
Columbus came out strong in the second half, scoring on its first possession of the half.
After blocking a Lima punt, Columbus got the football at Lima’s 14-yard line. Two plays later, Russell ran it in from 12 yards out. With the point-after, Columbus led 14-12.
For the game, Columbus recorded 16 first downs, while Lima moved the chains just six times.
“They’re just big and huge up front,” Warriors coach Rich Stotts said. “And then you got a great back in Gary Russell running the ball. We weren’t as big as they were up front and they took advantage of it. That’s what I would do if I was them.”
Warriors vs. Fire