If Columbus North needed any motivation to snap its four-game losing streak against Columbus East, the Bull Dogs needed to look back only to last season when they blew a 10-point first half lead against the Olympians.
Friday night, there was no such collapse. Class 6A No. 10 North scored the game’s final 21 points to rally from a 13-9 deficit and post a 30-13 victory.
“If there’s a rallying cry for us, a motivation all offseason, it’s that Columbus East took it to us in the fourth quarter last year,” North coach Tim Bless said. “I’m proud of our kids and how they played in the fourth quarter.”
The Bull Dogs’ second-half surge came with East junior quarterback Josh Major on the sideline. Major, who is also the Olympians’ punter, sustained a concussion making a tackle on North’s J.D. Harris at the end of a long return in the second quarter.
Major, who had thrown a 33-yard touchdown pass to Cam Wilson on the second play of the second quarter that gave East (1-1) a 7-6 lead, did not return.
“That’s a tough situation, but we’re not going to make any excuses,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “I just hate it for Josh. I hope he’s OK.”
With Major out of the game, the 5A No. 3 Olympians relied mostly on the run. Wide receiver Caleb Voelker moved to quarterback and led East on a third-quarter scoring drive, but was 0 of 4 passing.
Jamon Hogan carried 25 times for 149 yards and a 44-yard touchdown that gave the Olympians a 13-9 lead with 3:28 left in the third quarter. But after that, East managed only one first down the rest of the game.
“Everybody just had to do their jobs,” said North defensive tackle Coleman Tennyson, who was voted the game’s MVP for the Great American Rivalry Series. “Build a wall — that was our key on defense. They can’t do anything if they can’t run through our gap.”
After the Olympians took that 13-9 lead, North scored on its next three possessions.
On third-and-7 from their own 36, Triston Perry hit Jaylon Flemmons just past the first down marker. Flemmons made a juke move and outran the defense for a 64-yard touchdown and a 16-13 lead.
On the next series, Perry hit J.D. Harris for a 48-yard score in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Then, following an interception by Harley Huser, Mitchell Burton took it the final four yards for a 30-13 lead.
“Our defense really hung in there,” Perry said. “Coleman Tennyson had some great tackles. Hunter Wolford really plugged up the holes, and Spencer (West) and (Joseph) Suverkup just held down the ends for us.”
Both teams missed opportunities to put more points on the board in the first half. North was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the East 1-yard line. East missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
A potential big turn of events came after the Bull Dogs’ scored on a Mitchell Burton 8-yard run on their first possession. Mark Salle-Tabor kicked the extra point, but the Olympians were called offside before the play. North opted to kick again instead of going for 2, and the kick went wide right.
East took the lead in the opening 30 seconds of the second quarter. Major executed a perfect play-action fake and hit Cam Wilson over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown. Sam Thomasson’s extra point gave the Olympians a 7-6 lead.
The Bull Dogs regained the lead on a 33-yard field goal by Salle-Tabor with 3:12 left in the first half.
“I thought our kids, in spite of some things that happened during the game, showed a lot of character,” Gaddis said. “We just didn’t make plays in the second half when we had to. We have some things we have to get better at, but the good news is, I thought our kids competed hard against a good football team, and we’ll continue to get better.”
Perry finished 14 of 24 for 220 yards and two touchdowns passing. Burton carried 22 times for 121 yards and two scores.
Not only did North’s win snap a four-game losing streak against East, it broke the Olympians’ 44-game regular-season winning streak. The victory cuts East’s lead in the series to 23-22.
“It’s been so long,” Perry said. “We just had to keep working, and we dared to dream the dream. Our coaches have coached us up so much this week, and everyone played their part.”