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Battle for the crown: Game to decide conference title

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Columbus East's Tyler Campbell, left, tries to strip the ball from Madison kick returner Wayne Sherbahn during the first quarter Friday night at Stafford Field in Columbus.
Columbus East's Tyler Campbell, left, tries to strip the ball from Madison kick returner Wayne Sherbahn during the first quarter Friday night at Stafford Field in Columbus. PHOTO BY ANDREW LAKER

COLUMBUS East coach Bob Gaddis is about to pay the price for building a model football program.

On Friday when his team hosts Jeffersonville in a game that will decide the Hoosier Hills Conference championship, the Olympians become “The Target.”

“They have been the titans in this league for the last nine years,” said Jeffersonville coach Lonnie Oldham. “This game is exciting for our coaches to see how we will do against them. I have a lot of respect for Coach Gaddis. And this will be our first championship type atmosphere.”

Oldham guided the Red Devils to a 5-5 record in 2011 in his first season. He took over a team that was 1-9 the previous season.

About the Red Devils

East’s opponent: Jeffersonville Red Devils

When: 7 p.m. Friday at Columbus East High School

Record: Jeffersonville 5-2 overall, 4-1 Hoosier Hills Conference

Most recent meeting: 48-19 loss to Columbus East in 2011

Key players: TE Dionte Allen, QB Tyler Fridley, WR Jacquari Chandler, WR Ricky Embry, DE Dalton Adkins

Jeffersonville coach: Lonnie Oldham

The Red Devils are 5-2 pending an appeal on a ruling that they should forfeit their 36-7 win against Madison for using an ineligible player. That would make them 6-1 and unbeaten in the HHC if the decision is overturned. Oldham was confident the appeal would be successful because he said the situation was caused by a mix-up in paper work.

No matter how that decision goes, Friday’s game will decide the title. That’s fine with Oldham, who wants a victory against East to validate his team’s rapid ascent.

“Any time you can turn a program this quickly, it is due to the players,” Oldham said. “We have a lot of skill players.”

Jeffersonville’s passing game has been impressive. It starts with tight end Dionte Allen, a junior who has Division I offers piling up.

“He was our All-American tight end as a sophomore last year,” Oldham said. “We move him around to get the ball in his hands. He is 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, and he is dangerous. Teams try to key on him.”

Allen has caught 25 passes for 498 yards, a 19.92 yards-per-catch average.

Making it hard to key on Allen is the fact that two other receivers have more catches and yards. Ricky Embry has caught 33 passes for 637 yards, and Jacquari Chandler has 29 receptions for 600 yards. All three average more than 19 yards per catch.

“We throw it long, and short, and in the middle,” Oldham said. “They have to defend the whole field.”

Throwing them the ball is 5-foot-7 quarterback Tyler Fridley.

“Tyler is just a winner,” Oldham said. “I don’t know that he is even 5-foot-7. But he knows the game, and he knows how to get the kids the ball. He also is a good runner.”

Oldham said his tailback, Austin Hines, would be a star if the passing game didn’t take the emphasis off the running attack. Hines has rushed for 802 yards this season.

It all operates behind a much-improved line.

“We are stouter up front,” Oldham said. “It is because of our weight room and our commitment in the offseason. It is paying dividends.”

Gaddis said that Jeffersonville will give his team more looks up front on offense and defense than any team he ever has coached against.

“For our defense, the main thing is for us to get lined up correctly,” Oldham said. “If we get lined up correctly, we have a chance. But we used a variety of fronts because we don’t like sitting in one front. We want to make the other team guess.”

Dalton Adkins is the team’s force on the defensive line, and Derek Hughes is a playmaker at linebacker.

Oldham expects his defenders to have their hands filled with East’s rushing attack.

“There are going to be some points scored,” he said.

While the availability of East tailback Markell Jones is questionable due to his lower leg injury, Oldham said, “No. 6 (quarterback Alex Cowan) makes that offense go.”

Both coaches expect a tough battle.

“For us, we have to focus on not getting rattled early,” Oldham said. “And we have to match their intensity early. We know that we have a good team.”

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