When Columbus East football players gather each June, coach Bob Gaddis talks to his team about playing its best in November.
This year, the Olympians certainly have done that. As a result, they’ll be playing for the Class 5A state championship against Westfield tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“You try to find the right kids, the right combinations and you have to stay healthy,” Gaddis said. “All those things have happened for us. We’ve stayed healthy, we’ve gotten better and we feel like we’re playing our best right now.”
Standing in the way of a second state championship in four years and a third overall for the 5A No. 4 Olympians (13-1) is 5A No. 5 Westfield (11-2). The Shamrocks advanced with a 23-17 semistate win against 5A No. 1 and defending state champion Fort Wayne Snider.
The teams employ similar offensive styles, with both preferring the run. Both use a lot of players on defense.
“They play a lot of guys, and they play fast,” Gaddis said. “Offensively, they’re a downhill, physical football team. They’re just sound across the board. It’s going to be a physical football game. I think it’s going to come down to running the football and stopping the run.”
Westfield coach Jake Gilbert is similarly impressed with what he has seen from East.
“They have a very physical O-line, a big O-line,” Gilbert said. “They have two small backs — a quarterback and running back — that are both fast and quick as lightning. They run the ball as well as anybody in Indiana, so it’s scary to watch their running game.”
Both teams have practiced indoors this week in preparation for tonight’s game. The Olympians have used Indiana University’s indoor facility, while the Shamrocks have been practicing at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield.
East, however, may have the advantage of having played in Lucas Oil Stadium this season. The Olympians routed Jeffersonville 56-14 on Oct. 8.
That victory was in the middle of the 12-game winning streak that East has put together since a 30-13 loss at Columbus North in Week 2. Those 12 wins have come by an average margin of 32.3 points.
“It’s a grind on a 16, 17-year-old young man to keep that consistency,” Gaddis said. “We’ve played football for 14 weeks, and they’ve done a great job with it.”
Columbus East vs. Westfield
Game time: 7:05 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. Television: Fox Sports Indiana.
Records: Columbus East 13-1, Westfield 11-2
Last week: Columbus East beat Bloomington South 35-15, Westfield beat Fort Wayne Snider 23-17
Last year’s meeting: Did not meet
Coaches: Bob Gaddis is 290-132 in his 38th year, including 172-32 in his 16th year at East; Jake Gilbert is 75-63 in his 12th year, including 45-27 in his sixth year at Westfield
Key players: Columbus East QB Josh Major, RB Jamon Hogan, WR/CB Caleb Voelker, OT Jared Clark, C/LB Harry Crider, LB T.C. O’Neal, FS Ethan Summa, SS Wade Forman; Westfield QB Andy Sweet, RB Nate Froelich, RB Johnny Swidan, WR Evan Manley, C Austin Dollens; DE Byron Hubbard, LB Hank Grenda, FS Justin Frey
Prediction: Columbus East 35, Westfield 27