Just a few short years ago, Bloomington South was a struggling football program.
The Panthers went 7-33 from 2009-12. They did not win a single playoff game during that span.
Then along came Mo.
Mo Moriarity, who brought Bloomington South to prominence in the late 1990s and won the 1998 Class 5A state title with Rex Grossman at quarterback, returned to the school in 2013. Now in his fourth year in his second stint, Moriarity has led the Panthers to three sectional and two regional titles and has them within one game of a trip to this year’s 5A state finals.
Standing in the way is a Columbus East program, which has established itself as one of the state’s best under Bob Gaddis. The 5A No. 4 Olympians will visit 5A No. 3 Bloomington South in Friday’s southern semistate.
Gaddis said he talks to Moriarity almost every week during the season.
“I have a lot of respect for what he does and what their team does,” Gaddis said. “They just run a good program. He came back and has rebuilt the program, and he has the kids doing what it takes to buy in to win.”
Between his stints at Bloomington South, Moriarity twice was an assistant at Indiana University. He also coached five years at Carmel and two years at Salem. In his five years at Carmel, Moriarity took the Greyhounds to the state finals four times and won the 2007 state championship.
Moriarity also has led Bloomington South to the past three Conference Indiana titles. The Panthers biggest win this season was a 42-28 victory over then-unbeaten Columbus North, which was ranked No. 5 in Class 6A at the time.
In that game, the Panthers put up 570 yards of total offense, including 412 from junior quarterback Gavin Yeskie. Junior receiver Chris Bomba caught nine passes for 214 yards and junior Kristian Pechac ran for 140 yards.
Prior to that game in Week 8, Moriarity had started seven different combinations on the offensive line because of injuries. Since then, the same unit has been intact.
“It was definitely one of our better games,” Moriarity said. “We played well that game, but it kind of propelled us to where we’re at now. We’ve played well since then.”
For the season, Yeskie has completed 179 of 260 passes for 2,400 yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions and has run for 428 yards and three scores. Pechac has carried 239 times for 1,825 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Yeskie has two prime targets. Bomba has caught 64 passes for 967 yards and 11 scores, and senior Luke Jager has 68 catches for 904 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, Bloomington South is led by senior linebacker Sam Helm, who has 156 tackles. Junior kicker Arie Bland has converted 6 of 9 field goals.
“We’re going to have to go over there and play a great game,” Gaddis said. “They’re good on defense, they’re good on offense and they’re good on special teams, so we’re going to have to execute. You can’t turn the ball over and have a lot of penalties.”
East has some playmakers of its own. Junior Josh Major has completed 52 of 66 passes for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns and has run for 1,078 yards and 18 scores. Junior Jamon Hogan has carried 216 times for 1,994 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Senior Caleb Voelker has caught 23 passes for 508 yards and four scores, and senior Cam Wilson has 21 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns in the run-first offense.
“Nobody’s been able to (stop the Olympians) yet,” Moriarity said. “They’re running at well. They have the personnel and the makeup to do that because they’re good up front, they have a good quarterback and a good running back. When you run it that well, you don’t need to throw it.”
Junior safety Ethan Summa (86 tackles), senior linebacker T.C. O’Neal (71 tackles) and sophomore defensive back Jonah Wichman (five interceptions) lead East on defense.
Both teams are riding 11-game winning streaks. The Panthers haven’t lost since a 28-26 setback against Brownsburg to open the season, and East hasn’t been beaten since a 30-13 setback at North in Week 2.
“Right now, we feel like we’re playing our best football,” Gaddis said.
What: Columbus East at Bloomington South in semistate
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bloomington South High School
Admission: $10 at the gate, or $10 in advance when purchased at the Columbus East athletic office, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today and 7:30 a.m. to noon Friday.
Advancement: Winner moves on to play Fort Wayne Snider or Westfield in the Class 5A state finals at 7:05 p.m. Nov. 26 at Lucas Oil Stadium.