AS is the case every season, both the Columbus North and Columbus East football teams will be trying to shake off a case of rivalry game hangover when they continue their seasons tonight.
East downed North 28-21 in a fantastic, emotional contest last Friday played in front of a packed house. Now both teams will be prohibitive favorites against conference opponents.
The Bull Dogs (1-1) should have the easier time regaining their emotional edge despite the loss. Their game, hosting Bloomington North, once again features a matchup best described as the “Bless Bowl.”
Tim Bless, who coaches Columbus North, and his brother, Scott Bless, who guides Bloomington North, are meeting for the 11th time, with Tim Bless holding a 7-3 advantage. While the Bull Dogs would seem to have the edge this season, the Cougars have won the past two games in the series.
“Bloomington North (1-1) is coming into this game with momentum after their (18-14) victory over Bedford North Lawrence, especially after they made a goal-line stand at the end of the game,” Tim Bless said. “That’s huge momentum.”
The Cougars return tailback Cameron Morgan, who rushed for 155 yards against the Bull Dogs a year ago. Morgan had 141 yards rushing in two games this season.
“He is a hard-nosed, downhill runner,” Tim Bless said. “He had his way with us.”
Sophomore Trey Wilson starts at quarterback for the Cougars, and Tim Bless said his brother tries to utilize three-step pass patterns in an attempt to keep opponents from putting too much heat on the inexperienced sophomore. It will be the Conference Indiana opener for both teams.
“This game should give us the opportunity to rush the passer for the first time in three games,” said Tim Bless, noting that Franklin and Columbus East were primarily running teams.
Wilson, meanwhile, has thrown for 395 yards in two games with one touchdown and three interceptions. The Cougars have uncharacteristically had a hard time rushing the football, averaging just 74.5 yards per game.
Considering that Columbus North has its best defensive line in years, Bloomington North might have to rely primarily on the pass. The Cougars’ top target is wide receiver Holden Jastremski, who has 14 catches for 187 yards.
“Defensively, they throw a lot of stuff at you,” Tim Bless said. “They play a unique defense that we just don’t see. They move linebackers all over the place. It is chaos.”
The Bull Dogs had trouble maintaining any offensive consistency against Columbus East, so that will be an area where they are seeking improvement.
“We still are an evolving team,” Tim Bless said. “But now we’ve gone through a big-game atmosphere.”
East coach Bob Gaddis knows that his team is coming off a huge win but now faces a team that has improved substantially from a season ago in the Olympians’ Conference Indiana opener.
Seymour finished 2-8 last season, but won two of its final four games and then followed that this season with a 32-28 loss to Silver Creek and a 35-22 loss to Jeffersonville in games when the Owls had second-half leads.
Seymour coach Josh Shattuck seems to have his program headed in the right direction.
“Defensively, they have played two different schemes in two games,” Gaddis said. “It’s good to work against different schemes, but we will have to prepare for both.
“Offensively, they are a lot better. They run that triple option, and that’s hard to simulate. Our guys do a good job with it in practice, but they are going to do it a lot faster.”
Gaddis also pointed out that North will be playing on grass for the first time this season. “It might not seem like a big deal, but it can be,” Gaddis said. “And we have to go on the road and win games if we expect to compete for a conference championship.”
East senior quarterback K.J. McCarter, who has been out with a pulled hamstring, has been taking snaps in practice this week and could be ready to go tonight. Sophomore Josh Major will start his third consecutive game at quarterback if McCarter can’t go.