Rivals to the wire: North-East matchup could be decided late

When Columbus East visits Columbus North on the gridiron tonight, there’s a better-than-average chance the game could go down to the wire.

That’s just the way the East-North games have gone the past several years. Take away East blowouts in 2013 and 2014 and a lopsided North victory in 2010, and the past eight meetings have been decided by seven points or less.

“The last 10 years, there’s been a lot of games that were determined in the fourth quarter,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “They’ve been good, hard-nosed, physical games.”

The Olympians, who lead the series 23-21, have won eight of the 11 meetings in the past 10 years (they met twice in the 2009 season, including once in the sectional when both were Class 5A schools). The Bull Dogs haven’t beaten them since a 45-40 victory in 2011.

East’s four-game winning streak in the series is the longest since the Olympians won four in a row from 1977-1980. But North coach Tim Bless isn’t dwelling on that.

“That’s not something we get into,” Bless said. “This is the 2016 team, and we want to do the best we can against a great opponent. The way most of the previous games have been, with two teams that will win an awful lot of football games, this year, it will be a down-to-the-wire battle.”

Both teams rolled to lopsided wins in their season openers last week. Class 5A No. 3 East raced to a 41-0 halftime lead on its way to a 62-7 victory against Bloomington North. The 6A No. 10 Bull Dogs overcame a slow start to pull away for a 52-7 win against Franklin.

The Bull Dogs are led by senior running back Mitchell Burton. The Miami (Ohio) recruit ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 88 yards for another score in the opener.

North senior Triston Perry had one of the best games of his career, completing 20 of 25 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

“They’re an awfully good football team,” Gaddis said. “It’s a test for us early in the season to see where we are. What I told our kids Saturday morning, and I talked about it again (Monday) night, ‘It’s going to be a championship-type environment, but it’s just one game.’ We’re really fortunate that it’s not a conference game; it’s not a sectional game. But the level of intensity will be like that. It’s great for the players on both teams to get to play in that.”

Junior Jamon Hogan, who took over as the Olympians’ starting tailback, ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Josh Major had more than 100 yards both passing and rushing last week.

Both teams also feature Division I offensive linemen. East’s Harry Crider has committed to Indiana University, and North’s David Redding is headed to Western Michigan.

Bless isn’t surprised to see that the Olympians haven’t experienced a dropoff from the past few seasons.

“I was expecting that all along,” Bless said. “Yeah, they graduated some good football players. But they have some talented athletes back, and it was affirmed on video with their Week 1 performance.”

Tonight, East will put a couple of winning streaks on the line. The Olympians will try to win their 45th consecutive regular-season game and their fifth in a row against the Bull Dogs. Neither team has won five in a row in the series since North took the first five meetings between the schools from 1972-76.

The teams are meeting for the second straight year as part of the Great American Rivalry Series.

“It’s unique because all these guys know each other, and they respect each other, but they want to beat each other,” Gaddis said. “The players before them have really created this, and it’s become a great rivalry and a good, respectful game. I just told our guys we want them to enjoy it and go out and play.”

At a glance

Columbus East at Columbus North

Game time: 7 p.m.

Records: Columbus East 1-0, Columbus North 1-0

Last week: Columbus East beat Bloomington South 62-7, Columbus North beat Franklin 52-7

Last year’s meeting: Columbus East won 28-21 at East

Coaches: Bob Gaddis is 278-131 in his 38th year, including 160-31 in his 16th year at East; Tim Bless is 117-86 in his 19th year, including 105-77 in his 17th year at North

Key players: Columbus East QB Josh Major, RB Jamon Hogan, WR Cam Wilson, OT Jared Clark, C/DL Harry Crider, LB T.C. O’Neal, S Wade Forman; Columbus North QB Triston Perry, RB Mitchell Burton, OT David Redding, DT Coleman Tennyson, DT Hunter Wolford, LB Tucker Payne, WR/CB J.D. Harris

What to watch for: Both teams are coming off lopsided wins in their openers. This one should be much closer. While the teams are fairly evenly matched, home field could be the difference.

Prediction: Columbus North 31, Columbus East 28

Other area games:

Jennings County at Greensburg, 7 p.m.

South Putnam at Brown County, 7 p.m.

Edinburgh at North Decatur, 7 p.m.

Next week’s games:

Seymour at Columbus East, 7 p.m.

Columbus North at Bloomington North, 7 p.m.

New Albany at Jennings County, 7 p.m.

Brown County at Cascade, 7 p.m.

Edinburgh vs. Oldenburg Academy at Mount St. Joseph, 7 p.m.

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