It’s not often linemen score touchdowns. Some might even go their entire career without doing so.
Columbia senior Matt Gambler, however, has now done it three times. The first came last year on an interception return for a score against Pequea Valley, and the second came a few weeks ago against Ephrata when Gambler instead lined up at fullback and busted into the endzone on a 2-yard carry.
The latest came in last Friday’s 62-14 Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three football victory over Northern Lebanon, when Gambler returned a blocked punt 20 yards for a score.
It was part of a busy night for Gambler, who tallied 8.5 tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery to go along with the TD. He also is the starting right tackle on offense, and stays in to block on punts and field goals. For his efforts, Gambler is LNP|LancasterOnline's Week Nine Football Player of the Week, sponsored by Kegel's Produce.
Columbia (4-5 overall) has already tallied the most wins for the program since 2012. A victory Friday would be the most wins since 2011, which is also the last year the Tide made the playoffs.
Speaking of playoffs, Columbia is now on the periphery of the four-team District 3-2A playoff field heading into Friday’s regular season finale at Elco (6-3). And the Raiders will enter sitting at No. 10 in the 10-team District 3-4A playoff field. In other words, both teams need to win if they have any shot at the postseason.
Gambler chatted about that and more in a Q&A conducted before the start of Monday’s practice...
To win ballgames this year you guys have basically had to rely on putting up a ton of points. What’s been the struggles for this group defensively? “Stopping the run. We’ve had a lot of injuries. Luke McGinnis, our middle linebacker, got hurt in the Donegal game. Last week we had two middle linebackers playing with a cast on their arm. So we have two good arms at linebacker. This week, I think we’ll have to play better defensively to win. We’ll need to play good defense or we won’t get the ball back.”
Playoff berth or not, how important is it to you just to get to five wins this season? “Last year, Elco stopped us from getting into districts. And they have to beat us to get into districts. So that would mean a lot to us to get some payback. And getting to 5-5 would be huge. I’ve had years up here where we didn’t win a single game.”
You’re on the field for every play but kickoffs. How exhausted do you feel by the end of the game? “I’m pretty tired. But we condition at the end (of practice). And I play two other sports so I’m in pretty good shape.”
Time for some fun questions. What’s your favorite class? “French.”
Let’s say you’re in charge of the lunch menu for a day at school. What would you change or add? “French fries with everything.”
On Friday nights, do you ever get hungry and want to get something from the concession stand? “No. I usually have a problem with eating too much before a game. ...Before every game I go to Subway.”
What’s your favorite sub? “Chicken bacon ranch.”
Let’s say you could line up at any other position for a game. What would it be? “Running back. I used to be a running back before I got up here (to varsity). But we don’t have a lot of numbers so they put me on the line.”
If you could get tickets to any sporting event, what would it be? “The college national championship for football. I just love college football. I’m an Alabama fan.”
What motivates you in life? “Being a better person. Being a better me than the day before. I heard this saying ‘WADL: Win all day long.’ I like to go by that. Try to win out every day no matter what is put in front of me.”