East defense crunches Cougars

BLOOMINGTON — Columbus East’s offense didn’t put up the pinball-type numbers it did with regularity the past two football seasons, but the way the Olympians’ defense was playing, they didn’t need it.

East limited Bloomington North to six first downs and 122 total yards Friday night in posting its first shutout since the fifth game of last year’s regular season, a 27-0 season-opening victory.

“One thing coach tells us before every practice is, ‘This team has won zero games,’” said junior linebacker T.C. O’Neal, who led East’s defensive charge and recorded a sack. “We have one game to play.”

The Olympian defense came up big on a few occasions. Leading 14-0 late in the first quarter, the Olympians stopped the Cougars on downs at the East 20-yard line.

Then late in the first half, Bloomington North took over at the East 18 after a fumble on a punt return. But the Olympians threw running back Cameron Morgan for a two-yard loss, then sacked quarterback Trey Wilson for an 18-yard loss, with defensive end Quade Greiwe recovering a fumble.

“We had a great push,” T.C. O’Neal said. “We played a great game, especially when we stopped them from getting a first down on that fourth-down drive.”

“There were a few times when we put them in bad field position,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “The defense came in and did a good job.”

The Olympians, ranked No. 4 in Class 5A, did all of their scoring in the first half. They took the opening kickoff and went 68 yards, with senior tailback Steven O’Neal scoring from the 20.

The second time East had the ball, it went 95 yards in only three plays. Sophomore Josh Major, playing in place of the injured K.J. McCarter, threw a ball that Cam Wilson out-leaped a defender to catch at midfield and he then raced to the end zone for an 84-yard score and a 14-0 lead.

The Olympians made it 20-0 on a 5-yard run by Steven O’Neal. Steven O’Neal added his third touchdown late in the first half when he looked to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but bounced outside and outran the defense for a 43-yard score.

From there, it was up to the East defense to preserve the shutout. The Olympians took advantage of four turnovers, with Wade Forman recovering two fumbles and Noah Wichman intercepting a pass.

“Bloomington North is a big, physical football team, and they were hard to block,” Gaddis said. “I thought we had a lot of kids that played very well for their first time out. I think we showed that we can be physical, and we can be fast.”

Steven O’Neal finished with 140 yards on 27 carries.

“(Offensive line coach) David Miller and the offensive line, those guys do a great job,” Steven O’Neal said. “I like running behind them.”

Major, making his first varsity start, completed 10-of-15 passes for 159 yards and ran for 114 yards on 19 carries.

“I thought he played great,” Gaddis said. “I knew what he could do. I thought he would play like a sophomore, and he did, but he made a lot of good plays. I wouldn’t blink an eye putting him in any situation.”