For Bull Dogs, Olympians: Challenge is focus

Homecoming should have a different feel when Columbus North hosts Terre Haute South tonight at 7:30.

Bull Dogs fans have plenty to celebrate.

For the first time since the 2010 season, North has a chance to be 4-1 after five games. Although the Braves come into the game as another dangerous Conference Indiana opponent, they have struggled to a 1-3 start.

Also very interesting is North leading all Class 6A teams in margin of victory at 25 points a game.

“I put that up on the board,” said North coach Tim Bless. “We don’t get caught up in those things, but it is something to be proud of.”

On paper, North would seem to be a considerable favorite. Terre Haute South has thrown a little more than it has tried to run this season and it was been loose with the football.

Braves quarterback Evan Steppe, performing in his first year as a starter, has thrown 10 interceptions in four games with three touchdown passes. It is likely that Bless will turn loose his considerable front four defensive linemen to chase Steppe.

Bless did issue a warning.

“The quarterback weighs about 210 pounds and is built like a fullback,” Bless said. “If you let him get out in green grass, it’s like trying to tackle a bowling ball.”

Steppe’s favorite target is wide receiver Justin Jenkins, who has 22 catches for 292 yards. Jenkins, who has earned a Division I baseball scholarship to Iowa, had 57 catches a year ago.

Terre Haute South’s top running back is Keontae Smith, who has rushed for 336 yards. Terre Haute South seldom uses a tight end in its offensive formations, so it will be challenged to slow down North’s front four.

Bless said one of the most important tasks for his players is to keep to the task at hand. “It’s Homecoming and we have to focus on us,” Bless said. “We can’t get caught up in the distractions.”

Columbus East (4-0) will host a game as well tonight, entertaining New Albany, which seemed to be on the upswing after a 1-9 season in 2014. The Bulldogs beat Bedford North Lawrence last Friday 19-13 to even their record at 2-2.

This will be a considerable challenge, though, as East has beaten New Albany 12 consecutive years with the last Bulldogs victory in 2002.

Then again, New Albany has a new head coach in Sean Coultis.

“They have a good scheme and it is completely different than what New Albany has run before,” East coach Bob Gaddis said.

New Albany will try to utilize its zone read rushing game, but that will be a tough order against one of the state’s top defenses.

Gaddis said his team can’t afford to lose its focus, not even for a moment.

“Oh yeah, they have as good of speed as anyone we have seen,” Gaddis said. “And it looks like their players have bought into their system. We have expectations of a good, physical game.”

Although East senior tailback Steven O’Neal sat out last week’s game with a knee injury, he is back in the lineup tonight. Gaddis said the silver lining in O’Neal missing a game was that the Olympians discovered they have a very capable second tailback in sophomore Jamon Hogan.

The bad news for East was that senior quarterback K.J. McCarter still will not play due to his pulled hamstring that he suffered before the season. This will be the fifth game that McCarter will miss.

Sophomore Josh Major continues to run the offense.