Columbia claims second D3 title in school history over Camp Hill
HERSHEY, Pa. – Columbia hadn’t had much luck, historically, in District 3 Class A championship games opposite Mid-Penn Capital rep Camp Hill, losing the 1988 and 2001 title games to the Lions.
Mike Burke III, Columbia’s present head coach in just his second season, was a senior on that 1988 Crimson Tide team.
This time around, Columbia left nothing to chance.
The Crimson Tide (7-5) rolled up 426 yards of offense and saw three rushers post 60 yards each or better en route to their second District 3 Class A football championship in school history (and first since 1995) with a 36-20 victory over Camp Hill (7-5).
With the win, Columbia advanced to the PIAA A quarterfinals opposite the winner of the Bellwood-Antis/Penns Manor District 6 final next Saturday at noon at Hersheypark Stadium.
One year ago, Columbia went 4-7 and lost in the D3 semifinals. Now, they’re hoisting gold.
“If you wear the crimson and gold, today’s a good day,” Burke III said. “The town….that’s why we came back and got involved with the program.”
It helps to have a heady, multi-purpose quarterback like Seth Lefever at the helm of the Tide’s spread/single-wing offense. It also helps to have a stud athlete like Mike Burke IV, a jack-of-all-trades offensive threat who posted more than 1,000 receiving yards, at receiver. Or running back. Or quarterback.
“We put in new packages to get me more looks out of the backfield,” Burke IV said.
“He (Burke IV) can be a natural quarterback, a natural running back…he does everything we ask of him,” Burke III said.
In all, Burke IV connected on 2-of-2 passes for 48 yards, recorded seven carries for 61 yards and a seven-yard touchdown run and caught six passes for 71 yards.
Camp Hill came out like gangbusters. After a Marcellus Hayes 36-yard punt return, Jake Bingham took the Lions’ first play from scrimmage for a 19-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Lions lead. Columbia, though, was not daunted.
“They responded,” said Lions’ head coach Frank Gay. “We needed to respond defensively and get some stops and we didn’t.”
Columbia scored the next 22 points of the game. Lefever scored on runs of 3 and 8 yards and Burke IV added his 7-yard run to stake the Tide to a 22-7 halftime lead. While the Lions’ scored on their initial possession of the second half thanks to a Bingham (22 rush, 176 yards) 56-yard run, Columbia fired right back.
Just two plays after Bingham’s big run, Lefever broke free down the near side and then bobbed and weaved his way through a convoy of blockers and the Lion secondary for what proved to be a 75-yard touchdown run and a 30-13 Crimson Tide lead.
“Pound for pound, Seth’s one of the toughest kids in the Lancaster-Lebanon League,” Burke III said. “He does everything we ask of him, running or passing.”
Camp Hill made things interesting when Hayes (3-of-16, 116 yards) hooked up with Tyler Simpson for a 92-yard touchdown pass with 8:40 left in regulation to bring the blue and white to within 10 (30-20). The pass connection established a District 3 championship game record for longest TD pass, regardless of classification.
But, as was the case all day, the Tide answered back just seven plays later. Andrew Combs (15 rush, 75 yards) darted 22 yards down the left hashes for the deciding score and a 36-20 lead. After Camp Hill turned the ball over on downs, Columbia ran out the clock.
The Tide finished with 286 rushing yards on 43 team carries. In addition to Burke and Combs, Lefever paced the ground game with 124 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. He also threw for 92 yards on an 8-of-14 day. Qunicy Wells added a 23-yard rush on a double-reverse.
Bingham paced the Lions’ offense, which rang up 183 rushing yards. But aside from Bingham, the rest of the Camp Hill team managed just seven yards rushing on 11 carries.
“They were 1-9 last year,” Gay said. “We’re not here to lose, but we did. Kudos to Columbia. They’re a good team. I told our guys I was proud of them. They could have packed it in at 1-4, but they battled and won six straight. They changed themselves and the hearts of their school, parents and community. They are first-class kids, first-class citizens.”
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