Nothing I am going to write today will make the Columbus North football players feel any better about their 28-21 loss to Columbus East on Friday in a game played in front of half the town at Columbus East High School.
For everyone else, though, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game for both teams.
Let’s start with North.
The Bull Dogs (1-1) have lots of athletic talent only a few years removed from a squad that could best be described as plodders. Everyone knows about wide receiver Alex Algee and tailback Mitchell Burton, but sophomore defensive backs J.D. Harris, Cortez Bandy and Jaylen Flemmons are gifted athletes who will make huge strides this season.
A season ago, North had one interception. One. The Bull Dogs have matched that already, and I guarantee you they will add many more. They have the kind of ability where they can cover receivers in single coverage, allowing head coach Tim Bless to turn loose senior safety Mitchell Kelley.
Despite the loss on Friday, Kelley is one of the big stories of the 2015 season. A former North starting quarterback who was forced to take another role, Kelley has embraced his new position and has become an impact player. East had a hard time dealing with Kelley on Friday, and that’s going to be true with all of North’s future opponents.
Defense is king right now at North, which took an East squad that has gone 28-1 the past two seasons and tied the offense into knots for most of the game. East averaged 53.7 points a game last season and North’s defense really allowed just three touchdowns because one came due to North’s botched punt.
That alone will keep the Bull Dogs in every game they play.
Another positive can be taken from the fact that North has huge potential on offense. If the Bull Dogs had played a perfect game offensively against East, then it would be a bit scary. Truth be told, the offensive line needs to be more consistent and the passing game has a ton of room to grow.
Looking toward the other side of town, East won the game, but I’m sure head coach Bob Gaddis won’t be celebrating. North exploited some weaknesses that Gaddis and his staff will fix before the tournament begins.
But Gaddis will mention the positives as well, and there were plenty.
The biggest positive was East’s resiliency. The Olympians got smacked around pretty good at the start of the game and were in danger of getting buried early. But after getting knocked off the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense for most of the first half, East won the battle in the trenches in the second half.
Considering the talent North has on its defensive line, East’s offensive linemen should be feeling pretty good about themselves. If they can get tailback Steven O’Neal 193 yards rushing against North’s defense, nobody is going to stop them, at least until they get into the tournament.
Like North, East also can play cleaner football, which should come with experience as the season progresses.
And perhaps the biggest positive for East is that it will get back starting quarterback K.J. McCarter (pulled hamstring) soon, which will free up Josh Major to make plays as a slot or running back.
Both these teams are going to win a lot of games in 2015.