When Columbus High sophomore Nikiay Comer is on the pitch for the Blue Devils' soccer team, she's usually the smallest player.
However, the Blue Devils' shortest player stature-wise came up the biggest when Columbus needed it most Tuesday night at Columbus State, netting a 68th-minute goal to give CHS a 1-0 win over Grady in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
"The first part of the match was really frustrating," said Comer. "I was trying to make things happen, but I kept getting pushed around and pushed down. But that just makes me push more. (On the goal) I just wanted to get my head on it, but it went over me. I saw (Abby Roth) head the ball and it hit the post and I just got to it before the goalie did."
With the win, No. 3 Columbus (14-5) moves on to the state quarterfinals Friday, when the Blue Devils will travel to Jesup to take on Wayne County (15-3-2). Wayne County advanced by defeating No. 10 Upson-Lee, 4-1, in Jesup Tuesday.
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Comer's late-match heroics came after No. 8 Grady (12-7) controlled the first 40 minutes of the match. The Grey Knights outshot Columbus, 8-1, in the first half and had four corner kicks to the Blue Devils' one. However, Columbus keeper Anna Scogin made four saves -- including diving saves to both her right and left -- to keep the match scoreless at halftime.
"I was just trying not to let them score," said Scogin, who has verbally commited to Truett-McConnell College. "I know I've got to keep a cool head even though it can be pretty nerve-wracking sometimes."
In the second half, Columbus changed from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1 and the move paid dividends, as the Blue Devils spent much more time in Grady's end of the field and generated several scoring chances.
"We weren't getting the balls up front that we needed, so we changed to where we had an extra midfielder," said Columbus coach Russell Oliver. "That allowed us to get more opportunities and better chances for (Comer) to score because we knew she was faster than their back-line players."
Columbus finally broke through at the 67:47 mark, when Lane Burbrink took a direct kick from just outside the right corner of the penalty area. Burbrink arced her kick into the area and Roth headed the ball, which went off the left post. In the ensuing scramble, Comer beat Grady goalie Marie Godiers to the ball and put it in to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead.
After that, it was up to the Blue Devils' defense and they made it stand up. Scogin made eight saves to preserve the shutout as Columbus picked up its 12th clean sheet of the season.
"A lot of what I do is stand on the sideline, watch the match and yell things to the kids," said Oliver. "But changing up our formation at halftime was one thing I felt like we had to do and it worked. (Scogin) was ready tonight and it really made a difference. If we'd gone down a goal, it really would've changed the momentum of the game. All of it starts from the back for us."
Tuesday at CSU
Goals--Columbus: Nikiay Comer. Assists--Ivey Burbrink, Abby Roth. Goalies--Columbus: Anna Scogin 8 saves. Grady: Marie Godiers 5 saves. Records--Columbus 14-5, Grady 12-7. Next: Columbus at Wayne County (State Playoffs Quarterfinals) Friday.