With a steady rain falling at the beginning of Friday’s sectional semifinal, the safe play would have been to run the football.
But on Columbus North’s first offensive play, the Bull Dogs went for the home run. Trenton Kelley hit Tristan Bailey for a 34-yard touchdown, and that propelled North to a 56-14 rout of Jeffersonville.
“We said the ball is never going to be drier than what it’s going to be on the first drive,” North acting coach Jason Perry said. “We decided, ‘Let’s come out and throw the ball a little bit,’ not knowing what the weather is going to be like the rest of the game. That was a great way to get us started.”
The Bull Dogs (9-1) advance to play at Center Grove in Friday’s sectional final.
Kelley threw for two more first-quarter scores against the Red Devils (3-7), and North led 28-0 after the first quarter. That allowed the junior to tie the single-season school record with 25 touchdown passes.
“We had a great game plan coming in this week again, and this whole season, I’ve had a great group of wide receivers and O-line,” Kelley said.
Jeffersonville went three-and-out on each of its first three series. The Bull Dogs turned them into a 2-yard Michael Johnson touchdown and a 10-yard Kelley-to-Bailey scoring pass.
North’s fourth and final touchdown of the first quarter was set up by a 42-yard interception return to the Red Devils 7 by J.D. Harris. Three plays later, Kelley found Flemmons for a 10-yard score and a 28-0 lead.
Kelley threw an interception on the Bull Dogs’ first series of the second quarter. But he then led them on a 52-yard drive that ended in his 1-yard scoring run, and North led 35-0 at the half.
The Bull Dogs erased any doubt when they took the second-half kickoff and drove for another touchdown. Cortez Bandy took it the final six yards.
Jeffersonville got on the board on its next possession with a 48-yard pass from Isaac Hall to Terrell Aquan. North answered with a 41-yard pass from backup Dylan England to Bailey on a fourth-and-14 play.
The Bull Dogs’ final touchdown came on a 1-yard run by freshman Blake Huffman, the first of his varsity career. Huffman led North with 97 yards on 17 carries.
“We were excited about kind of having the thing in hand early enough that we could get some of those guys that had been working hard all year a chance to get in and get a few snaps,” Perry said. “We had a really good week of practice, and the O-line did a great job blocking up front, getting those guys some yards. Running backs had a really good week of practice, probably their best week of practice they’ve had all year, and it showed tonight.”
Kelley finished 10-of-14 for 182 yards. Bailey caught four passes for 108 yards.
Bailey’s three touchdowns were the first on the Bull Dogs’ home field this season.
“Coach prepared us a lot during the week and gave us tips to prepare ourselves so that we could keep our hands dry and warm,” Bailey said.
Perry was filling in for head coach Tim Bless, who was suspended following a sideline altercation in the regular-season finale at Southport. Perry also is the team’s offensive coordinator.
“We’re proud of the week of practice that we had this week,” Perry said. “They didn’t let the distractions bother us.”