The Columbus East football program enters the 2016 season with some lofty winning streaks.
The Olympians have won 43 consecutive regular-season games dating back to the second week of 2012. East has won 63 straight Hoosier Hills Conference games, going 7-0 in each of the past nine years.
After posting its fourth consecutive undefeated regular season last fall and falling to eventual Class 5A state runner-up New Palestine in the sectional final, the Olympians are looking to add to those winning streaks.
“We had a good offseason,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “All of our kids are in strength class, and we start our after-school program in January. That went well, and in the winter, we start our Olympic Speed School. Our kids really worked hard at increasing their speed, and then we continued in our offseason weight program.”
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The Olympians return six starters on offense, anchored by senior center Harry Crider, an Indiana University recruit. Senior left tackle Jared Clark also is back on the offensive line.
Junior quarterback Josh Major was a picture of efficiency last season. He completed 86 of 116 passes for 1,435 yards and 17 touchdowns with only one interception in his first year as a starter. Major also ran for 979 yards and 13 scores.
“Every year, you hope you have upperclassmen that get to play,” Gaddis said. “We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve had a lot of guys that have done the right things in the offseason, and they’ve been in our program, so when we need a new starter, they’re not new to the program.”
Juniors Jamon Hogan and Jaedin Miller saw some action at tailback last season. Hogan ran for 713 yards and five touchdowns, and Miller added 157 yards and two scores.
Seniors Cam Wilson and Caleb Voelker return at wide receiver. Wilson led East with 30 catches for 703 yards and seven touchdowns, while Voelker added 20 catches for 287 yards and three scores.
Junior Tyler Thomas, who played in two-tight end sets a year ago, will be the main tight end this season. Junior Zach Clark steps in at right tackle, junior Mark Sciutto will be at right guard and senior Ben Elsbury at left guard.
Senior Kobbe Claycamp, who saw action on the offensive and defensive lines last year, also will play on the offensive line. Senior Bryce Duffett will be the second tight end, and senior Austin Smith could play tight end or wide receiver.
“We have a pretty good mix of guys that are back and guys who have been in our scheme,” Gaddis said. “It’s not like we have had to reinvent anything.”
That means that even though the Olympians have more experience at quarterback and receiver than at running back, they’ll still be a run-first team this season.
“I think we’re going to be what we’ve always been,” Gaddis said. “We think we can throw the football, but we have to be able to run the football. We might be able to stretch the field a little bit more in the passing game, but we’ll essentially be the same.”
Junior Ty Henderson and senior Clayton Cordier, the returning long snapper, are back at defensive end. Junior Cole McCarter, who played some on the defensive line, and senior Ben Jenkins will play defensive tackle. Thomas and seniors Mason Phillips, Issac Doss and Crider and Zach Sutton also will play on the line.
Senior T.C. O’Neal returns at outside linebacker. Junior Zach O’Connor will be in middle, and junior Charlie Burton and sophomore Julian Greenwell will see action at the other outside linebacker spot.
Senior Wade Forman returns at strong safety, and junior Ethan Summa moves from cornerback to free safety. Senior Zach Springhorn returns at cornerback, where he will be joined by sophomore Jonah Wichman. Wilson also will play some corner, and senior Brayden Burbrink could play at safety.
“We have a lot of guys defensively that have been on the field for us before,” Gaddis said. “We’ll go into it with hopefully 16 to 18 guys that could play for us. Offensively and defensively, our depth is pretty good.”
Sophomore Sam Thomasson, who converted 26 of 27 extra points over the final five games, returns at kicker. Major is back as the punter.
Gaddis breaks the season into three parts — the first two nonconference games, the seven HHC contests and the postseason. He wants East to be in position to compete for a conference championship and be playing its best football going into the tournament.
“It’s not something that we have to talk about with our players,” Gaddis said. “They understand that our goal is to win championships in November. We got beat by a good football team last year. I think we’ve put ourselves in position each year to compete in season, as well as in the postseason. We need to continue to get better every week.”
The 2016 Columbus East football schedule:
Friday;Bloomington North;7 p.m.
Aug. 26;at Columbus North;7 p.m.
Sept. 2;Seymour;7 p.m.
Sept. 9;Jennings County;7 p.m.
Sept. 16;at New Albany;7 p.m.
Sept. 23;at Floyd Central;7 p.m.
Sept. 30;Madison;7 p.m.
Oct. 8;Jeffersonville (at Lucas Oil Stadium);7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14;at Bedford North Lawrence;7 p.m.