Jennings County surprised Columbus East early in Friday’s Hoosier Hills Conference battle by coming out with the Wing-T offense.
While the Panthers couldn’t get into the end zone, they mounted enough possession time to keep the East offense off the field. The Olympians did manage five short touchdown runs to post their 65th consecutive HHC win, a 36-0 triumph.
“They’re a pretty good team,” East senior linebacker Ben Jenkins said. “They showed us some stuff we haven’t seen, and it took us a little while to get adjusted to it.”
The Class 4A No. 6 Olympians (3-1, 2-0) played without starting quarterback Josh Major for the second consecutive game. Wide receiver Caleb Voelker made his second straight start at quarterback and completed 5 of 9 passes for 79 yards and carried eight times for 49 yards and a touchdown.
East had a pair of 100-yard rushers. Jamon Hogan carried 22 times for 126 yards and three scores, and Jaedin Miller added 14 carries for 103 yards.
“Our offensive line definitely stepped up,” Voelker said. “(Center) Harry (Crider) is a really great player, and our whole offensive line has been great all year. We’re definitely a product of our offensive line.”
In the first half, the Panthers (0-4, 0-2) had a couple of long pass plays that extended drives. Justin Rennemeier hit Zane Beineke for 25 yards and fullback Ramon Becker for 23.
Jennings drove into East territory after both of those plays, but couldn’t pick up another first down on those drives.
“I talked to (Jennings) coach (Rick) Zimmerman before the game, and he said they had a really good week of practice,” Gaddis said. “That was a completely different offense. They showed some Wing-T early and kind of caught us off guard. They came out and competed, and if they stay healthy, they’re going to win some games.”
The Olympians got on the board with a Hogan 4-yard run late in the first quarter. Hogan added a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to make it 14-0.
Voelker added a 2-yard scoring run with 4:18 left in the first half, and East led 21-0 at the break.
“We stopped ourselves in the first half,” Gaddis said. “We have to get those things cleaned up if we’re going to make a run for a championship.”
Hogan scored his third touchdown of the night on a 5-yard run in the third quarter. With the reserves in the game in the fourth quarter, Brayden Smith scored on a 1-yard run to cap the scoring.
“We played our hearts out, and I was proud of how hard they played,” Zimmerman said. “I thought the defense played about as well as they could. East is a great team.”
The Panthers also have been playing without their starting quarterback, although Brock Ernstes, who was injured in the season opener, made a late appearance. Junior Justin Rennemeier filled in and completed 3 of 6 passes for 69 yards.
Zane Beineke caught three passes for 79 yards. Wide receiver Tucker Marsh carried five times for 29 yards, and completed his only pass attempt for 33 yards.
“We’ve really struggled offensively all season,” Zimmerman said. “I was just trying to use Tucker Marsh a little more. He’s the quickest kid we have, and it’s been a struggle throwing the ball, so if we can’t throw him the ball, we’ll hand it to him.”
Jennings has played a tough schedule early in the season.
“Like I’ve told our kids the last two weeks, all I care about is getting better, and then the last half of our season, there’s some good teams that we play, but there’s also some teams that we can get some wins,” Zimmerman said. “Tonight, this was about us getting better and getting ready to play Madison next week.”