Columbus East seemed to be in control of Friday night’s crosstown showdown after it took the second-half kickoff and drove 74 yards for a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead.
As Columbus North coach Tim Bless astutely pointed out, that’s when the Olympians typically take over a game and bury their opponent. But this time, that was not the case.
Following that opening drive of the second half, it was all Bull Dogs. They scored the game’s final 21 points to claim their second consecutive win against East and even the all-time series at 23-23 with a 34-17 victory.
“To hold this vaunted offense to 17 points, I’m so proud of our defensive effort, especially in lieu of the fact that they crammed it right down our throat the first drive of the third quarter,” Bless said. “That’s probably a time when the Columbus East program takes over games against a lot of teams. I’m so proud of how we bowed up at that point and really dominated the game from that point on.”
The North defense was at its best over the final 2½ quarters. After the Bull Dogs offense gave them the lead back, the Olympians were driving for another go-ahead score when cornerback J.D. Harris intercepted a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-3 from the 9.
After another North score, East had a fourth-and-4 from the Bull Dogs 16. A swarm of North players made Olympians quarterback Josh Major run for his life, and he threw to tight end Tyler Thomas, but for a 7-yard loss.
Then the last time the Olympians had the ball, the Bull Dogs forced them into a fourth-and-21. Brigham Kleinhenz broke through to block the punt, scooped it up and took it 36 yards for the game-clinching score.
As good as the North defense was in the second half, the offense also was clicking on all cylinders. Junior quarterback Trenton Kelley, playing only his second full varsity game, completed 20 of 32 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.
“Our game plan was to try to be balanced running and passing, and when they decided to come out and stop the run, it really opened up our passing,” Kelley said. “Our O-line did a good job of protecting and giving me some time, and our wideouts just made a lot of plays.”
That included senior Jaylen Flemmons, who caught 10 passes for 176 yards and two scores. His 176 yards is the fourth-best single-game receiving output in school history.
Kelley’s 303-yard game is the second-best passing game in Bull Dog history.
“Trenton is beyond his years, and you’re going to see more big games from him over the next two years,” Bless said. “That’s why we believe in a balanced offense. Columbus East did a very good job of stopping our rushing attack, and fortunately, we’re pretty solid in the aerial department, as well.”
The key now for North is not to experience a letdown the next few weeks. The Bull Dogs aren’t likely to be challenged until they host Bloomington South in Week 8.
But for now, they’ll celebrate a major victory.
“It’s indescribable,” Kelley said. “I can’t put it into words. I just get goosebumps thinking about it.”