Baseball team holds off footballers in fundraiser over hoops

Players from Columbus North’s football and baseball teams got together for a fun game of basketball Saturday night at Memorial Gym, but as the game wore on, it became more and more competitive.

The baseball team led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, only to see the footballers rally to within two points in the final minute. But the baseball squad held on for a 61-57 win before about 400 fans in a fundraiser for both programs.

“I’m just glad we came away with nobody being hurt,” baseball coach Ben McDaniel said. “We had a bloody nose (to Parker Maddox), and that was it, so I’ll take that. That’s obviously my big fear doing this a month before the season, but it was a good time.”

The baseball team jumped out to a 35-16 halftime lead behind 14 first-half points from 6-foot-6 junior pitcher-first baseman Casper Clark. Clark had played basketball for the Bull Dogs his first two years of high school.

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“We have to play as a team as far as passing and everything is concerned,” Clark said. “We can’t be too selfish. The more you take shots from the outside, the less likely you are to score points, so we pretty much had it figured out in the first quarter.”

The lead was still 19, at 49-30, after three quarters. But then the footballers started battling back.

The football team had the ball down by three with less than 20 seconds remaining. But Devon Rodgers came up with a steal and made a free throw with 9.8 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.

Rodgers and Clark each scored 15 points to lead the baseball team.

“I think we came more prepared than they were,” Rodgers said. “We were here a lot earlier and ready to start the game. We were really nervous whenever they started coming back. It was a close one.”

Nash Johnson, who played basketball for North as a freshman, scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead the football comeback attempt. Avrin Holt scored eight of his 14 points in the final period.

“We just had to work as a team more, swing the ball, rotate it and put some 3s up,” Johnson said. “Mostly, we just wanted to put points on the board. We just got to heating up a little bit. It felt good.”

Johnson, who was the Bull Dogs’ nickel back as a junior in the fall, and Holt, a sophomore who played on the JV team, could be North’s starting safeties this coming year.

“That’s where that Columbus North football competitiveness comes out,” said Ray Gipson, who coached the footballers. “I told the kids in the first three quarters, everyone is going to get a chance to play, but in the last four minutes, we were going to go with the kids that really wanted to finish the game off. Down by 22 in the third, that was a pretty hard deficit, and we just went back to a 1-3-1 zone and then man(-to-man) in the last three minutes and climbed back.”

Gipson, who coaches the Bull Dogs freshman football team, was filling in for North head coach Tim Bless. Bless and his varsity staff were in Orlando over the weekend for the USA Football national convention.

Adam Chapman added 10 points for the baseball team. Mitchel Collier scored nine, and Preston Terrell finished with eight for the footballers.

“It was fun,” Clark said. “I’m glad a lot of people came out and got to see us play. It was a big deal for the community.”

Surveying a court filled with both teams, along with students and fans after the game, McDaniel agreed.

“This was fun,” McDaniel said. “You look at this right now what’s going on, on the court afterward with everybody out here together, that’s more important — the camaraderie. That’s been great to see right here.”