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The Explorer Football Team Heads Into The Playoffs

By Robert Lewis

If you found yourself at Tropical Park on Friday, October 30th, at around 9:30pm, a feeling of shock and a bitter, unfamiliar taste surely filled your mouth. Unfortunately, that taste was forced into the mouth of every Explorer – player, student, and fan alike – by the Coral Gables High School Cavaliers football team. The Cavaliers brought the Columbus Explorers’s perfect season to a staggering and unforeseen halt after besting the latter 20 to 10 to become the District 14-8A champions.

With both starting quarterback Alejandro Ros and backup quarterback Nick Gonzalez injured, Orlando “Bongy” Hidalgo was faced with the Herculean task of stepping up to lead his team as starting QB. Despite the enormity of the mission (to have one’s first varsity start as QB in the District Championship game against Gables is no laughing matter), “He didn’t run from the challenge,” Coach Trujillo confided. “He battled.” And from the sideline I saw that battle take place. Whether it from Ros’s encouragement and leadership from the sideline, or from Bongy’s own drive and talent, “In the second half we saw a better QB.” One that was able to cut a sizable deficit to a respectable final score of 20-10.

Why do we make mistakes? To learn from them, and that’s exactly what Coach Trujillo confirmed the Explorers have done. They had a “Great practice with no ill effects… [and are] not letting one loss turn into two.” With that positive response the Explorers now move forward (or, Adelante! rather) into the playoffs and embark on the road to the State Championship.

The road to states will not be easy. This Friday, the Explorers enter into the first round of the FHSAA Playoffs in a bout against the American High School Patriots. When I asked fullback Eddie Pozo, who will have his third varsity start this Friday, about the playoffs he responded, “[We’ve been] preparing since the beginning of the season, and now we’ve come together to see our work proved… As a team,” he affirmed, “we have the talent to compete and come out on top.” His brother, jv football player Joey Pozo, saw this hard work first hand. “[Eddie started as] one of the smallest players, but has become an important part of the team.” Joey summed up playing Explorer football nicely when he shared that “It’s good to be a part of the team and the Columbus Brotherhood [as well as to] be able to give back to the school.”

When I asked for Coach Merritt to use one word to describe his team as they enter the plays he responded, after some thought, “Hungry.” I couldn’t have said it better, Coach. The Explorers are hungry to showcase their work in the playoffs. The Explorers are hungry to succeed in the playoffs. The Explorers are hungry to bring home their first Football State Championship.

The game against American High School will be played at 7:00pm in Hialeah, FL, at Ted Hendricks Field at Milander Park. If (When) Columbus moves on the the second round, they will play the winner of the Hialeah vs. Coral Gables game. The word around the locker room? A chance for revenge against Gables sounds divine.

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