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COLUMBUS North coach Tim Bless dismissed his players after a sharp practice session this week, and he felt good about his team’s preparation for tonight’s opener against Plainfield.
But with a small senior class and a lot of inexperienced players at key positions, he won’t know quite what to expect until he sees his players in game action.
“Generally, I want to see how our inexperienced players are going to perform under Friday night lights,” Bless said.
Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis has many returning starters, so he probably has a better idea what to expect. However, it is a new season and a new group.
“My biggest question would be consistency,” Gaddis said. “We want to make sure we play at a higher level than we did last year. Then we will see if that is good enough.”
Perhaps Gaddis is a tad demanding. East was 13-1 in 2012 with sectional and regional titles.
While the coaches have their own questions about their teams as the 2013 season begins to unfold today, local football fans probably are wondering what they are going to see. The following 10 questions might be just a sample.
Can North grind out yardage small chunks at a time?
With the loss of wide receiver Taylor Summa and tailbacks Jamaal Halliburton and Jesse Tompkins to graduation, the Bull Dogs will be hardpressed to find the kind of player who can score from anywhere on the field. All three of those players were a threat to go the distance whenever they touched the ball due to their quickness. Current junior tailback Jonathan Byers has shown that he can get the tough yardage inside but has yet to prove himself to be a breakaway threat. Last year’s junior varsity tailback Kaleb Steele has shown speed in practice, but he has no experience at the varsity level. If North is forced to use the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense, the pressure will be on the offensive line.
Will East develop a more consistent passing game to complement its running attack?
The Olympians have such a vaunted rushing attack with quarterback Alex Cowan and tailbacks Markell Jones and Christian Wichman all returning, so maybe they don’t need to throw much. However, it will be interesting to see if they work wide receivers such as J.T. Voelker and Jason Kimmet into the mix more often.
Can the Bull Dogs find an impact player on the edge now that Luke Teague has moved to middle linebacker?
Teague, who played outside linebacker and defensive end in 2012, was a master of getting into an opponent’s backfield and busting plays wide open. He will have a different role directing the defense from the middle this season. The wild card appears to be Jacob Barnette, a 230-pound senior whose playing time was limited last year as he recovered from a torn ACL. Barnette is back to full strength, and his ability to be a force on the defensive line could be a key to North’s season.
East lost John Stephens and Rob McKee to graduation, and that constituted the right side of the offensive line in 2012. Can those guys adequately be replaced?
Gaddis has a lot of talent on his roster, and an all-state player in guard Evan Kuhn. However, Kuhn is playing his third position in three seasons, as is center Jared Whiteside. With East’s fortunes riding on the rushing game, the attention will be on East’s offensive line to continue what has become a tradition of excellence.
Will quarterback Michael Vogel be able to build on his success from the end of last season?
Vogel was a big part of North’s five-game winning streak that took the team to the 2012 sectional championship game. Now he needs to show he has the leadership to hold together a mostly inexperienced team that appears to be searching for playmakers. Will Vogel be the biggest playmaker of the bunch?
Can Markell Jones continue to rack up huge yardage totals with every defensive player focused on his every move?
Jones, a junior, has recovered from the lower leg stress fracture that he battled his sophomore season. Even so, opposing coaches will do everything they can to game-plan against him.
Can a freshman quarterback handle the starting job at Trinity Lutheran?
Cougars head coach Anthony Levy is inserting his son, Blake, into the starting quarterback role and moving last year’s starting signal-caller, Jacob Stout, to wide receiver. It will be interesting to watch Blake Levy develop and to see whether he can handle senior defenders.
8. Will Brown County quarterback Dillon Boknecht and wide receiver Luke Hulls become the top passing combination in the area?
New Eagles coach Ethan Schreiber has two talented, seasoned veterans at two of the most important positions on offense, and they are certain to pile up touchdowns. Now if Schriber can get the Eagles, who won just two games last season, to play defense.
9. Will Jennings County running back Preston Teltow handle the responsibility of being this season’s Tommy Taylor?
Taylor was the go-to guy on both offense and defense last season for the Panthers, who have new coach Dustin Roller running the show. If Roller needs somebody to lead his team back to a winning record, Teltow would appear to be a good choice.
10. Can Edinburgh survive some supreme challenges to the season?
Head coach Bill Unsworth is going to be out at least the first part of the season after having surgery, and that puts interim coach Tim Leonard in charge. Unfortunately for Leonard, he will be guiding a team that lost several key players from a year ago and one that has few impact offensive and defensive linemen. It could be a long season for the Lancers.
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