Former champs return to cheer on Olympians

INDIANAPOLIS — Three years ago, Alex Cowan was on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf helping lead Columbus East to the Class 4A state football championship.

On Saturday evening, Cowan was in the stadium, but in a much different location. He was about 15 rows up in the stands behind the Olympians’ bench.

“It’s a lot different being out there on the field,” Cowan said. “You don’t get to see everybody that’s in the crowd — all the family and friends that came to see you the last time. You get to see old, former teammates coming back to support Columbus East, and it’s just a good thing for the whole town of Columbus.”

Cowan, who was a senior quarterback on that 2013 team, is now the seventh-grade coach at Central Middle School. He wasn’t the only player from that state championship team in attendance.

Paul Baker, who kicked four extra points in that 28-27 win against Fort Wayne Dwenger, was there along with offensive lineman Evan Kuhn, who now plays at St. Francis, and defensive end Brock Greiwe.

Steven O’Neal, who redshirted as a freshman at Marshall this fall, skipped the Thundering Herd’s season finale Saturday to watch his brother, senior linebacker T.C. O’Neal, play for the Olympians.

“Even though I didn’t make it last year, watching these guys come back is awesome,” Steven O’Neal said.

Show of support

Several of the East program’s “Blacksmiths” were preparing to take their positions on the field and in the press box prior to Saturday’s game. Blacksmith Frank Anderson said the term was coined because the group repairs whatever needs fixed.

Andy Brasher charts the offensive play calls, and Tim Hilderbrand charts the defensive calls on the field during the games. Tony Patterson and Brasher input them into an electronic sheet so coaches can use the next day at practice.

“We input it into the computer so the kids can look at it and know where they’re supposed to be and the coaches look at it and say ‘You weren’t where you were supposed to be,’” Patterson said. “It’s a good training device.”

Anderson runs the video camera from atop the press box. Steve Dornquast, a junior manager at East, is the skyhawk pilot on an end zone camera.

Duane Mottier has had various other duties, including holding an umbrella to keep the crew dry during the rain-soaked semistate win at Bloomington South.

“The games are all big for us, but when you come to these kind of places (like Lucas Oil), that’s special,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of like playing.”

— Staff Reports

Hoops players cheer East

The East boys basketball team hopes to someday play for a state championship. Saturday, several players on this year’s squad were at Lucas Oil to cheer on the football team.

Juniors Drew Hasson, Thomas Myers, Max Nolting, Zarrien Johnson-Bey and Matt Hamon were among those hoping to see the Olympians pull out a victory.

“It’s good to see my friends out there playing,” Nolting said. “I know they’re really excited.”

School almost sells out

The 1,500 presale tickets Columbus East received from the IHSAA weren’t enough, so the school’s athletic department asked for 750 more. The IHSAA sent 800.

By the time East wrapped up ticket sales Saturday afternoon, only 26 remained. The school was able to keep $1 for each of the 2,274 presale tickets it sold.

Olympians go patchless

Some of the teams competing in this weekend’s state finals sported commemorative state finals patches. East, however did not.

Olympians assistant coach and equipment manager Jonathan Martin said time constraints were one issue that kept patches from being sewn onto the East uniforms. He also said that the team intends to wear the same uniforms again next year, and it would have been difficult to remove the patches for future use.

Success factor to be examined

Columbus East, which moved up to 5A two years ago, will remain in 5A because of the IHSAA tournament success factor.

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said the success factor formula will get another hard look after its fourth season. He said the organization will hire a research intern and look at data including scores and first-time sectional, regional, semistate and state champions.

“Anecdotally we know it’s working,” Cox said. “We’re going to look if the games overall through all sports are going to be representative of better games. At the end of the day, we’re trying to create better competitive games. As I look at it, I think it’s working.”

— Staff reports

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