INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus North played what coach Tim Bless called its best defensive football game of the year on Friday when the Bull Dogs beat Bloomington South in Lucas Oil Stadium.
North held the Panthers to just two first downs and 94 total yards while handing the Panthers their first shutout loss since 2012 in the 23-0 victory. It also was the Bull Dogs’ first win against Bloomington South in five years.
North jumped out to an early 17-point lead in the first half, and the Panthers picked up only 28 yards in the first two quarters.
“I told the defense at halftime, ‘That’s the best half of football we’ve played this year, but let’s not be satisfied. Let’s put 48 minutes together,’” Bless said. “To shut out an offense like Bloomington South is awesome.”
The Panthers (3-5, 2-4) broke free for a 46-yard run on the fourth play of the second half, and it looked as if they had resurrected their offense until it came to a halt on the Bull Dogs 11-yard line. Bloomington South went for it on a fourth-and-1, and North’s defense stepped up once again for the stop.
The Panther offense saw the field only three more times after that. They had 11 possessions, which ended in nine punts, one turnover on a fumble and a turnover on downs.
The game marked senior running back Cortez Bandy’s first time playing in Lucas Oil Stadium, and he said he came into the game more focused than he has been all year. That focus helped him rush for 114 yards with two receptions for 20 yards on his way to earning the game’s Most Valuable Player award.
“It’s amazing,” Bandy said. “It’s a big stage, and big time players make big time plays on big stages, and that’s what I did tonight … I wasn’t producing like I could be (this season), and this game was a game to show them who Cortez Bandy is.”
Trenton Kelley threw for 175 and a touchdown while completing 19 of his 33 attempts. He also had two rushing touchdowns.
Bless huddled with his players after the game and told them the momentum they have right now is a powerful thing and to keep progressing forward. He also told them that they just made memories they’ll remember for a lifetime by playing the way they did in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Not many young men get the opportunity to play in an NFL stadium, and then to go play a dominant brand of football while you’re on that big stage, I’m just so proud of them,” Bless said.