‘Friendly rivals’ kick off East-North week

Bob Gaddis has an interesting perspective on the Columbus East-Columbus North rivalry.

Gaddis is in his 17th year as the head football coach at East. But before that, he spent 22 years as a head coach at five other high schools.

The way he sees it, he’s never been a part of another rivalry like this one.

“There’s nothing like it, in my opinion,” Gaddis said. “I have a lot of friends that I talk to around the state about big rivalry games, and not just in football. There’s probably no other place that the student-athletes are friends when they’re little guys growing up playing sports and going to school together. Their families are intertwined. It’s really a unique thing.”

Gaddis was speaking to a group of Rotarians Monday at Donner Center. He and North football coach Tim Bless, along with boys and girls soccer coaches from both schools, were invited to give a few remarks about their teams leading into this week’s Bull Dogs-Olympians showdowns.

Besides the football game Friday night at East, the Olympians will host North in boys and girls soccer at 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex. JV games are at 2 and 4 p.m. North will host the freshman and JV football games beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Also, today, the Bull Dogs will host the Olympians in boys tennis. The match will begin around 4:15 p.m.

“After the game, it’s a great feeling in any of those sports because the kids respect each other,” Gaddis said. “It’s a respectful rivalry, and it’s a fierce rivalry.”

That certainly is the case on the gridiron. The teams have met 45 times and are separated by one game.

In fact, East and North have evenly split 44 regular-season contests, with each winning 22 times. The Olympians won the lone postseason meeting by one point in 2009, when they were both Class 5A programs and met in the sectional.

After that, East moved back down to 4A and won a state title in 2013. The Olympians came back up to 5A last year and made it to the state finals.

The Bull Dogs moved up to 6A when a sixth class was added a few years ago.

“This week is a big game, and it’s great for both teams because when it’s over, it’s over,” Gaddis said. “We don’t have to play each other in the same conference, we don’t have to play each other in the tournament right now. It’s a tremendous experience for (the players) and for everybody in town. This is one of the biggest rivalries and best games in the state.”

The same can be said for boys and girls soccer. All four teams (East and North boys and girls) practice at the Wigh complex, and they all share one main game field at the facility.

North girls soccer coach Derek Stewart recognizes what a gem the soccer community has in not only the Wigh complex, but the city as a whole.

“Parks and Rec do a great job with the facility,” Stewart said. “The community we live in is second to none. You can’t go anywhere and get this type of support with facilities. It’s just fantastic. I’ve been in this community for several years, and there’s nowhere else like it.”

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