The last time Columbus East had a quarterback pass for more than 1,000 yards and run for more than 1,000 yards, it won the state championship.

That was Alex Cowan, who was a double threat in both 2012 and 2013, and helped lead the Olympians to the Class 4A title in 2013.

Now, after just missing the 1,000-1,000 double last year, this year’s Columbus East starting quarterback, Josh Major, has 1,132 yards passing and the exact same amount rushing.

Major has led East into Saturday night’s 5A state championship game against Westfield at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“In our system, that’s the kind of numbers that our quarterback has to have,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “If we can get 1,000 and 1,000 out of him, with that balance, that’s exactly what we want to have happen.”

When Gunner Kiel was winning Indiana Mr. Football honors as a senior in 2011, East threw the ball all over the field. The Olympians did not even have a tight end in the program.

But after Kiel graduated and the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Cowan took over in 2012, Gaddis put in two-tight-end zone offense. He’s kept it for Major, who is similarly built at 5-10, 150.

Both Cowan and Major used their athleticism to overcome any stature limitations, and they also knew to depend on their teammates, Major said.

“What they both brought to the table was a tremendous competitive spirit,” Gaddis said. “Those guys just compete. They want to win.”

Major was an eighth-grader at Central Middle School when Cowan was a senior. The two quarterbacks met when Cowan came to a couple of Major’s games. Cowan is now the seventh-grade coach at Central, and the two have stayed connected.

Major said he received a congratulatory text from Cowan following Friday’s 35-15 semistate win at Bloomington South, when Cowan told him to look forward to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of getting to play for a state championship.

After the Olympians’ 30-13 Week 2 loss at Columbus North, however, some people outside of the East program didn’t think Columbus East would be in this position.

Besides losing the game against North, East lost its quarterback — Major — in the second quarter when he was injured making a tackle on a punt return. He did not return.

The injury proved to be serious, with doctors diagnosing Major as sustaining a concussion.

Although Major missed the next two weeks during his recovery from the head injury, the Olympians were able to beat Seymour and Jennings County.

“I knew that my teammates were going to do a great job,” Major said. “They really carried the team when I was out.”

What’s also helped, Major said, is that for the past 12 games the Olympians have played with a chip on their shoulder.

“That’s really helped us out,” he said.

While Major is not a particularly outspoken player, Gaddis said the junior does a tremendous job of leading by example.

“Josh is obviously a great leader for us,” Gaddis said. “Our kids rally around him. He’s a tremendous competitor. I’m just happy he’s on the field now.”

The Major file

Name: Josh Major

School: Columbus East

Year: Junior

Position: Quarterback, punter

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 150

Sports: Football, baseball

If you can't go

If you can’t attend Saturday’s Class 5A championship football game in person, it will be broadcast on Fox Sports Indiana. The cable channel will broadcast five of the six state championship football games, with the lone exception being tonight’s Class 6A game, which will be on Fox Sports Indiana Plus because of an overlap with Indiana Pacers game coverage tonight. The games can also be seen on a delayed basis at ihssatv.org.

Title up for grabs

What: Class 5A state finals

Teams: Columbus East (13-1) vs. Westfield (11-2)

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Admission: $15

Presale tickets: Available in East athletics office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and at East’s home girls basketball game from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

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