8 Bull Dogs sign with college programs

Tim Bless makes a point to be sure his players are prepared to play college football when they graduate from Columbus North.

That’s the case with three Bull Dogs seniors who signed letters-of-intent Wednesday to play for two programs that are among the nation’s elite in their division. Josh Holt signed with Division III Franklin College, and Ezra Followell and Weston Moore signed with reigning NAIA runner-up Marian University.

“It’s another proud day for Columbus North football,” Bless said. “It’s something that we take great pride in — producing a product that is college ready. These three certainly fit that bill.”

All three committed in the past few days. Holt, who plans to major in business administration, made his decision at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“It was a little bit of everything,” Holt said. “Most of all is how close it was to home. When I visited, I loved everything about the school — not only the campus, but the academics and the athletics suited me really well. They have a great coaching staff, and it’s a great institution all around, so it was an easy choice for me.”

Holt, who rushed for 990 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior, played mostly linebacker as a senior after stretching his PCL during preseason practice.

He recorded 63 tackles on defense and ran for 253 yards and a touchdown in limited duty at running back.

“I wouldn’t say I’m fully recovered right now, but I’m working on it each and every day, running doing drills,” Holt said. “I’d say right now, it’s around 80 to 85 percent.”

“It’s going to be nice,” he said. “I won’t have to wear that brace. That kind of slowed me down.”

Moore, who led the Bull Dogs with 28 catches for 454 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, committed to Marian during the weekend, and Followell followed suit Monday. Both plan to major in business.

The Knights were NAIA champions in 2012 and runners-up in 2014.

“They win a lot, and I’m trying to win,” said Followell, an All-State center at North. “We work so hard, it’s going to be awesome to get a chance to win and be a part of something special.”

The additions of Followell and Moore will bring the total of North graduates on the Marian team to seven. The roster currently includes Christian Williams, who will be a senior, along with juniors-to-be Shaquille Ash, Taylor Summa and Austin Sizemore, and Tyler Combs, who will be a sophomore.

“It’s a great place with a lot of people I know, and they have an awesome program,” Followell said.

“When I visited the campus, I liked it a lot, and I knew a bunch of players that were there that I played with at North,” Moore said. “They like it a lot.”

Meanwhile, five other North senior athletes who had previously committed to colleges made it official Wednesday. That included senior cross-country and track runners Chase Ballard (Belmont) and Seth Williams (Purdue).

Williams and Ballard are both All-State cross-country runners. Williams finished fourth, and Ballard placed seventh in the state cross-country meet in November, in leading the Bull Dogs to a fourth-place team finish.

Soccer midfielders Emma Risley and Claire Chambers signed with University of Indianapolis and Franklin, respectively.

Risley earned All-District honors as a junior but missed most of her senior season with a torn ACL and meniscus. Chambers netted four goals and three assists in the fall in helping North to a sectional title.

Catcher Evan Finke will play baseball at Snead State Community College in Alabama. Finke batted .426 with eight doubles, two home runs and 26 RBIs last season in helping the Bull Dogs to a sectional title.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.