Olympians, Bull Dogs look to build momentum heading into playoffs

Columbus East and Columbus North already know their first-round sectional opponents, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be looking past their final regular-season games tonight.

The Olympians (8-0, 6-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, have a chance to finish off their fourth consecutive undefeated regular season and win an outright Hoosier Hills Conference title with a win against Bedford North Lawrence (4-4, 4-2) on senior night. The Stars are the only HHC team to have beaten East in the past 12 years, and that came in 2006.

The Bull Dogs (6-2, 5-1), ranked No. 10 in 6A, still have an outside shot at at Conference Indiana title. They must win at 6A No. 8 Southport (6-2, 5-1) tonight and hope undefeated Bloomington South falls at home against Perry Meridian. North and Southport are tied for second in the conference.

Bull Dogs coach Tim Bless said his team won’t be looking ahead to next week’s sectional matchup with 6A No. 1 Center Grove.

“Our kids have had a good perspective all season of playing the game in front of them,” Bless said. “That a tribute to good senior leadership.

“It’s kind of the mantra of our program to go 1-0 this week,” he said. “What’s past doesn’t matter, and what’s in the future doesn’t matter. We’re playing for the present.”

The Cardinals feature one of the state’s top quarterbacks in 6-foot-5 senior Luke Johnston. Johnston has completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,112 yards and 28 touchdowns.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for our defense,” Bless said. “They are as dynamic an offense as we’ve seen all year and one of the more dynamic offenses in the state of Indiana with a legitimate Mr. Football candidate at quarterback.”

The Olympians, meanwhile, will face a Bedford team that has improved since going 1-9 two years ago in coach Steve Weber’s first season with the Stars.

“You can tell by watching his team that he knows what he’s doing,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “They’re pretty sound. They were really close earlier in the year, and I think they’re playing really well right now. They’re playing with confidence.”

Bedford runs a triple-option offense, led by senior quarterback Brayden Tidd. Tidd has completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,376 yards and 10 touchdowns has also ran for 418 yards and five scores.

“That (triple-option is) something we don’t see a whole bunch, and their quarterback is a good player,” Gaddis said. “It’s going to get our kids’ attention this week.”

The Stars also have a weapon in the kicking game in Estaban Flores, who has converted 6-of-8 field goals, including a 38-yarder.

“They probably have the strongest-leg kicker in the league,” Gaddis said. “He knocks it in the end zone quite a bit and has a really good range on field goals.”

Predictions

Ted Schultz went 5-2 last week in his debut as pigskin prognosticator. Here are this week’s picks:

Columbus East 42, Bedford North Lawrence 17. The Stars are improved, but not enough to keep the Olympians from finishing off their fourth consecutive unbeaten regular season and an outright Hoosier Hills Conference title.

Columbus North 38, Southport 35. This is a tough week for the Bull Dogs. They’re coming off an emotional game against undefeated Bloomington South, and they open the sectional next week against the state’s top-ranked team in Center Grove. With Southport featuring a high-powered offense, this could be a shootout.

Jennings County 35, Jeffersonville 28. The Panthers (6-2, 5-1) actually have an outside shot at a share of the HHC title, but they would have to win tonight and hope East loses at home to Bedford North Lawrence. While the Olympians aren’t likely to fall, the Panthers will hold up their end of the deal at Jeffersonville (4-4, 3) and finish second in the conference.

Brown County 21, Greencastle 20. Both teams are 1-7. Both teams have beaten Cloverdale, although the Eagles had to forfeit their victory to the Clovers. Brown County has the home-field advantage in this playoff for 11th place in the Western Indiana Conference, and that will be the difference.

South Decatur 24, Indian Creek 21. The Cougars (5-3, 2-2) can tie the Braves (5-3, 3-1) for second in the Mid-Indiana Conference with a win at home. The teams are fairly evenly matched, so a field goal could be the difference.

Southside HomeSchool 28, Edinburgh 21. The Lancers (2-6) will face a tough test in the Crimson Knights (7-1), who are ranked No. 9 in the nation among home school teams. Southside, which includes five players from Trinity Lutheran, lost its first game last week against the nation’s No. 4 home school team from Milwaukee.

Seymour 24, Madison 14. The Cubs (0-8, 0-6 HHC) have had a season to forget. The Owls (2-6, 1-5) have won two of their past three and can finish the regular season with some momentum heading into the sectional.

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