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Player of the Pine Belt: Columbia linebacker Jonathan Wiltz

Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 11:07 PM CDT
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COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - They are the Wildcats, but Columbia has some dogs on its football team.

“Our kids love to compete,” said Columbia head coach Chip Bilderback. “They love to play a physical brand of football. We always talk about it and people may make fun of it but we want to impose our will on both sides of the ball. We want our opponents to feel us on offense and defense. And our kids have bought into it. We train that way and they love contact. As a football coach, you gotta love that.”

Columbia is primed for a state championship run, returning 22 seniors this year.

It’s hard to miss 6-foot-5 defensive tackle Jaheim Oatis, an Alabama commit. Running back Omar Johnson has made some eye-popping plays over the years, too.

But embodying the gritty, hard-hitting spirit of Columbia football more than anyone is senior linebacker/running back Jonathan Wiltz.

“At linebacker I just diagnose the plays, try to lay a hit every play,” Wiltz said. “And at running back, I don’t shy away from contact. That’s just kinda how I always played the game. I don’t run out of bounds too much.”

“He’s just kind of the coach on the field on defense,” Bilderback said. “But more importantly, he’s the heart of our team. Just the work ethic and energy he brings on a day to day basis.”

Columbia’s pursuit of a state title began back in December. The addition of former Southern Miss offensive coordinator Matt Kubik should help, especially as the Wildcats jump up to Region 7, class 4A along with schools like Poplarville, Sumrall and Purvis.

It’s a challenge the Wildcats embrace.

“I think we’re used to the week to week grind of having to play at a high level every Friday night,” Bilderback said. “And we tried to do that same thing on our schedule to kind of prepare us for district. The main thing I’ve been excited about is how hard our kids have worked since this last offseason.”

“One team, one heartbeat is our saying,” Wiltz said. “We want to come closer as a family. Our goal is to end up with that gold ball. That’s something we talk about, that’s something we be about, that’s something we come out here and we try to earn every day.”

Columbia opens its season on August 27 at Mendenhall.

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