Bull Dogs draw No. 1 team in opener

Columbus East received a minor reprieve Sunday when it found out it won’t have to play the state’s top-ranked Class 5A football team until the sectional final.

Columbus North wasn’t so lucky.

The Bull Dogs, ranked No. 8 in Class 6A, drew the No. 1-ranked team, undefeated Center Grove. North will host the Trojans on Oct. 23.

“Our goal is ultimately to become a sectional champion again, and we’re going to have to beat Center Grove to do it,” North coach Tim Bless said. “Whether we play them in Round 1 or Round 2, you’re going to have to play them at some point.”

The Trojans (8-0) have beaten the Bull Dogs (6-2) in the sectional three of the past four years, including 54-7 in last season’s sectional final at North. The Bull Dogs last beat Center Grove in 2007 on their way to their most recent sectional title.

“This is the first time we’ve played them undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state,” Bless said. “This could be the best Center Grove team yet. As we studied in the offseason, there were changes that we made to keep up with the best teams on our schedule, Center Grove being one of them.”

If North wins, it would visit Jeffersonville or host New Albany in the sectional final.

Meanwhile, East (8-0), ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, will visit Franklin (1-7) in the opening round. The Olympians would then host 5A No. 6 Whiteland (6-2) in the second round, and if they win, would face New Palestine in the sectional final.

“If you’re going to win our sectional, we probably thought we’d have to play New Pal at some point,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “It would be great to get there. But at this time of year, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Gaddis said the rule with his players is that they can talk about the draw and possibilities at school today, but once practice starts this afternoon, the entire focus needs to be on Franklin.

“They’re a triple-option team, which we haven’t faced all year,” Gaddis said. “If we’re fortunate enough to win that one, we’d have to play Whiteland, and we go to camp with them, so we’re fairly familiar with them. They’re a good team, and that will be a tough one.”

Health may be a concern for the Olympians. Senior safety Nick Andrie has missed the past two games with a bacterial infection that resulted from knee surgery this summer and will go back to the doctor Tuesday. Then in Friday’s win at Jeffersonville, senior defensive lineman Quade Greiwe suffered a possible MCL injury and is scheduled to undergo an MRI today.

Senior quarterback K.J. McCarter, who has missed the entire season with a hamstring injury, has still not been released to practice.

“He has a long way to go,” Gaddis said. “We would want to make sure that he’s healthy enough to be a full-time player. As long as he’s had to sit out, his body is not in football shape right now. I just hope he gets released so he can start practicing and having a little fun.”

North’s starting quarterback, junior Triston Perry, is also injured. Perry has missed the past 2 1/2 games with an ankle injury.

“We determined this past week that he wasn’t ready to go,” Bless said. “He was limping on Saturday morning, but we’ll see how he is (today).”

In Class 4A, Jennings County (6-2), which has clinched its first winning season since 1997, will host 4A No. 9 Shelbyville (7-1) in the opening round. In that same sectional, Seymour (2-6) will host Franklin County (5-3).

Brown County (1-7) will host Corydon Central (5-3) in Class 3A.

In Class A, South Decatur (5-3) will visit Eastern Greene (6-2) and Edinburgh (2-6) will host Oldenburg Academy (5-3) in the first round. The winners will meet in the second round.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.