The mystery has been solved.
As a novelist, Agatha Christie penned some of the most beloved works of all time. From “Murder on the Orient Express” to “And Then There Were None” to “The Mousetrap,” the reader was always on the edge of their seat in great anxiety-filled eagerness of the often surprising conclusion.
Equally as much was the anticipation level of Friday’s high school football matchup as London hosted Columbus Academy. Both a perfect 3-0 going into the contest, fans were excited to see which squad would be the ones left standing at the end.
With more twists and turns than a classic whodunnit, the game was a whirlpool of emotions for fans and players alike.
In the end, the hero (or culprit, depending on your perspective) was London’s KJ Price who continued to run over opposing defense as his 300-plus yards led the still-undefeated Red Raiders to a 38-28 over the visiting Vikings.
“KJ is a special player,” said London coach Kyle Cutler. “But we have a special team around him.”
The win elevated the Red Raiders quest to be its league’s best by racking up buckets of yardage and points on the previously unscored-upon Vikings.
The Red Raiders got on the board first with a long run by London’s not-so-secret weapon, running back Price. The quick junior continued his explosive running of the first three weeks by going 76 yards against the Vikings.
Following a 3-and-out by Academy (thanks to a huge third down stop by Red Raiders Nate Wells and Bricker Thiel), London went right back to their workhorse.
After a short run by quarterback Josh Handley, it was Price again, this time from 89 yards away — easily outrunning the competition. The touchdown vaulted the home team to an early 14-0 lead.
Columbus Academy then started to show why they entered the contest undefeated as well as they put together a 10-play drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Saling to Dorrian Moultrie to cut London’s lead in half.
The Red Raiders responded in style as Juane Gardner returned the kickoff 62 yards to the 33. Although the Viking defense stiffened, London has the luxury of a top-notch kicker in Miller Kronk, who connected easily on a 31-yard field goal.
The Vikings had a response of their own as they worked their way down the field using the legs of both Herman Moultrie and Dorrain Moultrie. While the latter tallied Academy’s first score, it was the former who entered the end zone in the second quarter as Saling slinged it in across the middle for the 17-yard touchdown strike.
The chess game continued with the teams exchanging possessions the rest of the half, with the Vikings tying it up with less than three seconds before intermission on a clutch 42 yard field goal by Sam Massick.
“A tie game is kind of our ball game,” said the always optimistic Cutler. “At least we weren’t behind.”
As was true to start the game, London drew first blood in the second stanza as well. The Red Raiders worked methodically down the field with an 11-play drive as quarterback Handley took it in from a yard and a half out after a heavy diet of Price got them to the goal line.
Just when it looked like London had the advantage, the Vikings had other ideas. Despite losing their quarterback temporarily on the drive (he would return the next series), Academy kept moving. Then, the Red Raiders defense buckled down when it needed to. A swarming group of Haden Huff, Justin Portman, Jacob Jones, Xavier Manville and Jimmy Dulin held the visitors to a long field goal.
“The defensive stops to start the second half were big,” Cutler said. “We were able to steal back the momentum they brought into halftime.”
London seemingly put the exclamation point on the victory with a pair of long 40-plus yard touchdown runs by Price and Handley to start the fourth.
While the Vikings tried to come back, London’s Dulin made a key interception. But just when the Red Raiders thought they had solved Academy, the visitors returned a fumble (and the subsequent 2-point conversion) to cut it to 10 points.
The final suspense didn’t last long as the Red Raiders ran out the clock for arguably the top victory of the Cutler era.
“It’s all about executing,” Cutler said. “If we do things the right way, good things happen.”
Jeff Gates is a contributor for The Madison Press.