Leading 10-0 in Friday night’s cross-town rivalry game, Columbus North appeared to be headed for its first win in four years against Columbus East.
Quade Greiwe and his Olympian teammates had other ideas.
Greiwe shoved a Bull Dogs lineman so far back that North punter Mitchell Essex kicked it off the back of the lineman and back to the 1-yard line. Steven O’Neal took it in from there, awakening East from a slumberous start and sending the Olympians on their way to a 28-21 victory.
“Coach (Bob) Gaddis always says big players make big plays in big games,” Greiwe said. “I knew one of us had to step up and make a play. I knew we had to get some momentum, and I was doing all I could to make a play.”
Ironically, it was Greiwe who came up with another big play at the end of the game to finish off the Bull Dogs. After North took over at the East 29 with 10 seconds to play, Greiwe sacked North quarterback Triston Perry to end the game.
“It’s pretty much instincts and all the preparation we’ve done,” Greiwe said. “We couldn’t have done this without the whole defense and the whole team.”
The Bull Dogs (1-1), ranked No. 12 in Class 6A, jumped on the Class 5A No. 4 Olympians (2-0) early. North took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards in less than two minutes, with Mitchell Burton taking in the final four.
The lead grew to 10-0 when Mark Salle-Tabor kicked a 28-yard field goal with 6:47 left in the first quarter. The Bull Dogs had a chance to add to the lead late in the quarter, but Salle-Tabor missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Midway through the second quarter, Greiwe’s forced punt mishap, and O’Neal’s dive into the end zone gave East new life.
“(North) came out and did a great job,” Gaddis said. “They had a nice game plan, and they executed pretty well. Our kids dodged quite a few bullets in the first half, then Quade Greiwe made a big play, and that really got us going.”
“There were some big momentum plays there in the first half,” North coach Tim Bless said. “There were two fumbled punts and punt returns, and then the blocked punt obviously to give them a short field.”
The Olympians took a 14-10 lead after taking the second-half kickoff and driving 80 yards. Sophomore quarterback Josh Major, making his second start in place of injured senior K.J. McCarter, took it the final two yards.
Salle-Tabor kicked his second field goal of the night, a 25-yarder, to bring the Bull Dogs with in 14-13 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. But then O’Neal broke loose for a 63-yard scoring run to give East a 21-13 lead.
“I just saw a hole, and I shot it,” said O’Neal, who finished with 193 yards on 22 carries.
“Steven got dinged up a little bit early, and I asked him at halftime if he could go, and he said ‘Yeah, absolutely coach,'” Gaddis said. “He had a big night.”
But it was far from over.
North came right back to tie it. A 45-yard Triston Perry-to-Alex Algee pass set up a 15-yard scoring strike from Perry to Wyatt Barkes. Then on the 2-point conversion, Perry fumbled the snap but scrambled and ran around to the left side of the field and into the corner of the end zone for a 21-21 tie with 9:13 remaining.
But then East’s running game took over. The Olympians marched 58 yards in 10 plays — all runs — capped by a 1-yard smash by Sam Dwenger, to take a 28-21 lead with 4:33 remaining.
After the Bull Dogs turned the ball over on downs, East looked like it would run out the clock. But as Major was running for a first down on fourth-and-4, he fumbled at the North 20, and Bryce Ables recovered with 1:39 left.
The Bull Dogs picked up one first down but then turned it over on downs at the East 47 with 26 seconds remaining. But three kneel-downs, two North timeouts and three Olympian penalties later, it was fourth-and-39 at the 19.
With Major, who is also East’s punter, out of the game with a cramp in his arm, wide receiver and backup quarterback Caleb Voekler ran 10 yards, giving the Bull Dogs one final chance. But Greiwe and the defense erased that opportunity.
“The second half, I thought we went toe to toe with them and played very well,” Gaddis said. “It was hard to simulate what they did because they’re big and fast. They knocked it right down our throat, and our kids showed a lot of character and battled back. I thought our defense played a lot of team defense and just ran around and made some big plays.”
“We started playing harder and playing smarter,” O’Neal said.
Burton finished with 129 yards on 27 carries, and Perry completed 13 of 26 passes for 145 yards for North, which now trails 24-21 in the series with East.
“We started fast, but we knew it was going to be a four quarter battle,” Bless said. “You just knew the way this game set up, it was going to go all 48 minutes, and (East was) resilient. They didn’t get rattled when they were down early, and it ended up being a great high school football game.”