When he was in middle school, Bryce Ables was no more than a B-team football player.
Not much changed through his first three years of high school at Columbus North, but as a senior this season, Ables has finally had his chance to play at the varsity level. He is a starting safety and one of the top defensive players for the Bull Dogs, who begin playoff action this week following their best regular season in nearly a decade.
“It’s been a dream come true,” Ables said. “It’s been kind of crazy. This has been a wild ride for me.”
That ride started at Northside Middle School, where Ables played in only one A-team game in two years as a fullback and defensive end. But Northside coach John Henderson had a message for the B-Team players: “Keep working. I’ve seen it happen, and it can happen to you.”
Ables took that message to heart. He kept working. But early in his high school career, it wasn’t resulting in playing time.
“Whenever I was young, I wasn’t that athletic,” Ables said. “Freshman year, I wasn’t that good, but I just kept working. When the offseason came, I never gave up. I never lost sight of what was ahead.”
After watching Ables play wide receiver for most of his first three years at North, coach Tim Bless asked him if he wanted to try playing safety. Eager to get on the field, Ables thought it was worth a shot and played the final couple of games for the junior varsity last year at safety.
“Freshman season was kind of bad,” Ables said. “Sophomore season wasn’t that good. At the end of my junior season, that work that I had been putting in getting my strength and my speed up, that’s when I finally started going.”
Physical growth certainly played a factor in Ables’ ability as a football player. He has grown from 5-foot-9, 130 pounds as a freshman, to a 6-2, 175-pound senior.
“He was a role player early on, but hung with it, and fortunately, he got tall, he got athletic,” Bless said. “He’s fast. He has very good weight room strength, and it’s all kind of come together for him.”
Bless is glad that Ables stuck with the program. Ables ranks third on the team with 41 solo tackles and fifth with 48 overall tackles. He also has two tackles for losses and two fumble recoveries.
“Bryce is a fun story,” Bless said. “It’s that story of perseverance. He was a kid that scrapped and clawed for minutes. So many kids, especially in this generation, don’t have that perseverance to see it through. I’m so happy for him that he is getting his time now and is playing a key role on a very successful defense.”
Ables, who will help lead the 6-3 Bull Dogs into Friday night’s battle against the state’s top-ranked team in Center Grove, knows his wild ride of a football career may be coming to a close. He wants to go to Purdue to study engineering technology and isn’t likely to play the sport in college.
But that doesn’t mean he has any regrets about the past six years.
“I wasn’t ever a selfish player,” Ables said. “I wasn’t ever mad that I didn’t get to play. I just kept trying, and eventually, it all paid off.”
Name: Bryce Ables
School: Columbus North
Position: Strong safety
Key stats: 48 tackles, including two for losses, two fumble recoveries