From the time they were in seventh grade, Josh Major and Jamon Hogan have been wreaking havoc on opposing defenses.

This year, the junior backfield duo did it at the varsity level for Columbus East. The pair were almost unstoppable in rolling up big yards and points in the Olympians’ run to the Class 5A state finals.

For their efforts, Major and Hogan share this year’s The Republic Football Player of the Year honor.

“Having a guy like Jamon back there to take a bunch of the carries, they didn’t know which one to key on,” said Major, the East quarterback. “They couldn’t just key on one of us. They had to game plan for both of us.”

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That, in a nutshell, was the biggest factor in the Olympians’ putting up 5,141 rushing yards and 76 touchdowns this season.

If opposing defenses tried to stop Hogan, Major broke off a long run. If a defense attempted to stop Major, Hogan went for big yardage.

Major said the key to executing the zone read offense comes down to reading the intentions of a defensive player, usually a defensive end. If that defender stays outside, Major gives it to Hogan. If the defender makes a break toward Hogan, Major keeps it.

Both Major and Hogan agreed that the biggest factor in their success is East’s mammoth offensive line, which was anchored by the state’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in center Harry Crider. Major calls the line the best in Indiana.

“It becomes pretty easy to be able to run the ball how you want to behind a great offensive line like that,” Hogan said. “Having Josh back there with me to take some of the pressure off me and for him to be able to run the ball himself is big.”

Major and Hogan began playing together as seventh-graders at Central Middle School. They were in the same backfield again as eighth-graders and then on the freshman team at East. Last year, Major was the starting quarterback, and Hogan saw some varsity action while backing up then-senior Steven O’Neal at running back.

Because of their experience playing together, Major and Hogan didn’t think it took long to gel this year when they were both in the varsity lineup.

This season, Hogan amassed 2,417 yards and 38 touchdowns. Major added 1,222 yards and 18 scores.

But it was another facet of Major’s game that added to the Olympians’ offensive explosiveness. He completed 77 percent of his passes for 1,164 yards and 11 touchdowns, with only three interceptions.

Those offensive numbers, coupled with an underrated defense, helped East go 13-2 and win Hoosier Hills Conference, sectional, regional and semistate titles.

“We came a long way since the beginning of this season,” Hogan said. “It didn’t come out the way we wanted to, but it was a great season.”

One of the only downsides to that season came in the Class 5A state title game, where the Olympians fell to Westfield 16-13. With Major, Hogan and several other starters returning next year, East hopes to make a repeat trip.

Hogan, who hopes to challenge former teammate Markell Jones’ state single-season rushing record of 3,536 yards next year, said the key is making sure the returning players are staying healthy, making good choices and getting ready for next season.

“That state game left a bad taste in our mouth,” Major said. “We want to definitely get back there and win it. So the whole team is going to work together, and we’ll come back even stronger next year.”

At a glance

The Republic 2016 All-Area football team:

Offense

QB — Josh Major, Columbus East

The junior threw for 1,164 yards and 11TDs and ran for 1,222 yards and 18 TDs.

RB — Jamon Hogan, Columbus East

The junior ran for 2,417 yards and 38 TDs and had one TD reception.

RB — Mitchell Burton, Columbus North

The senior ran for 1,698 yards and 22 TDs, had two TD catches and one TD on kickoff return.

RB — Damon Allen, South Decatur

The senior ran for 2,404 yards and 32 TDs and had two TD receptions.

WR — Jaylen Flemmons, Columbus North

The junior led the Bull Dogs with 38 catches for 465 yards and eight TDs.

WR — Caleb Voelker, Columbus East

The senior led the Olympians with 24 catches for 540 yards and five TDs.

TE — Tyler Thomas, Columbus East

The junior caught eight passes for 135 yards and three TDs.

OL — Harry Crider, Columbus East

The senior center led an offensive line that paved the way for 435 yards a game.

OL — David Redding, Columbus North

The senior tackle led an offensive line that paved the way for 358 yards a game.

OL — Jared Clark, Columbus East

The senior tackle helped pave the way for 435 yards a game.

OL — Zach Clark, Columbus East

The junior tackle helped pave the way for 435 yards a game.

OL — Daniel Hill, Columbus North

The senior center helped pave the way for 358 yards a game.

Defense

DL — Coleman Tennyson, Columbus North

The senior defensive tackle recorded 75 tackles, including two sacks, and a team-high 15 for losses.

DL — Zach Sutton, Columbus East

The senior defensive end recorded 60 tackles and led the Olympians with five sacks.

DL — Brendan Sutton, Jennings County

The senior recorded 50 tackles, including three for losses, and two sacks.

LB — T.C. O’Neal, Columbus East

The senior recorded 81 tackles, including a team-high nine for losses.

LB — Tucker Payne, Columbus North

The senior led the Bull Dogs with 99 tackles.

LB — Zack O’Connor, Columbus East

The junior recorded 60 tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks, and returned an interception for a TD.

LB — Colten Harper, Brown County.

The junior led the Eagles with 82 tackles and had 903 yards of total offense.

DB — Ethan Summa, Columbus East

The junior led the Olympians with 99 tackles and had one interception and a kickoff return for a TD.

DB — J.D. Harris, Columbus North

The junior had 28 tackles, led the Bull Dogs with five interceptions and caught two TD passes.

DB — Harley Huser, Columbus North

The senior had 91 tackles and four interceptions, including one for a TD; caught a TD pass and returned three punts for TDs.

DB — Jonah Wichman, Columbus East

The sophomore recorded 43 tackles and led the Olympians with five interceptions.

DB — Tucker Marsh, Jennings County

The senior returned two interceptions for TDs and caught eight TD passes.

Special teams

K/P — Mark Salle-Tabor, Columbus North

The senior converted 52-of-56 extra points and 7-of-11 field goals and averaged 37.7 yards a punt.

KR — Cam Wilson, Columbus East

The senior returned three kickoffs for TDs and caught three TD passes.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Nolan Kelly, Baylee Mosier, Noah Ryan. Columbus East: Charlie Burton, Clayton Cordier, Wade Forman, Jaedin Miller, Sam Thomasson. Columbus North: Alex Downin, Tanner Payne, Triston Perry, Trey Vincent. Edinburgh: Tavian Cosby, Grant Godsey, Zach Smiley, Zane Smith. Jennings County: Zane Beineke. South Decatur: Oakley Billingsley, Colton Davis, Brandon Farr, Kordell Meadows.

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