If the Columbus North football team has an overall calm heading into Friday’s season-opener at Franklin, that feeling might just be connected with its starting quarterback.
After playing through the final eight games of 2014 as a sophomore starter, Triston Perry picked up some valuable experience followed by an important offseason.
“He has become more of a master of our offense,” said Columbus North head coach Tim Bless. “(Offensive coordinator) Jason Perry spent a lot of time with him this summer.
“And his presence on the practice field definitely is stronger than it has been. His big picture awareness of the defense has improved.”
It all promises to vault the Bull Dogs to a level of success they haven’t experienced since 2011 when they went 8-4.
After completing 11 of 14 passes in a scrimmage at Greenwood on Friday, Perry said he, indeed, is more comfortable.
“I am a little more calm,” he said. “And if I am calm, the whole offense is calm. Everything slows down.”
That was not the case last season when North’s offense was sluggish. Perry had his moments, such as a 220-yard, four-touchdown effort in a 43-35 loss to Terre Haute South and a 220-yard passing game in a 30-24 win against Terre Haute North.
But North had just 77 yards passing in a 34-14 loss to Perry Meridian and 9 yards passing in a 54-7 sectional loss to Center Grove.
Perry finished the season with 1,077 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed 50.7 percent of his passes.
“I threw some bad balls,” Perry said. “And when you make the wrong reads, everything falls down.”
But then there were those really big moments as well.
“I will still have big moments this season,” he said. “But hopefully more often.”
With a running game led by speedy tailback Mitchell Burton, the Bull Dogs need a complementary passing game to keep defenses honest. “We can’t throw it if we can’t run it,” Perry said. “We feed off each other.”
Bless said the Bull Dogs have the ingredients for a balanced offense.
“Everybody knows about Mitchell Burton,” Bless said. “But we have really good weapons on the perimeter.”
It’s up to Perry to get the ball to wide receivers Alex Algee and Wyatt Barkes, who have solid run after the catch skills.
Perry is confident he can get the job done.
“I am a little bit smarter, a better all-around player,” he said. “And we’ve run a lot of passing drills, so I am pretty comfortable. We have a lot of weapons on offense.”
Part of his comfort has to do with watching more game film with Jason Perry. “It is pretty important for a quarterback,” he said. “You’ve got to make good decisions. And I always like to take a look at what is coming up the next week.”
North fans are hoping those game films will turn into highlight films.
Bless said that will happen if Perry trusts his skills.
“He has had a hard time pulling the trigger when the picture isn’t perfect,” Bless said. “You need to have that confidence. Half a step is open in high school football. You have to let it go.”
So a calm North squad lets it go Friday, hoping to get off to a positive start. North has won two of its first three games since 2010.
“We are not freaking out about it,” Perry said.
WHO: Triston Perry
SCHOOL: Columbus North
SIZE: 6-foot-2, 185
2014 statistics: 77 for 152 (50.7%) for 1,077 yards, 11 touchdowns, 6 interceptions