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INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus North defensive back Josh Holt was sitting in sixth-period English class Monday afternoon when he received a text.
It was defensive coordinator Jason Perry. The message: Holt was going to practice at running back that day.
The junior stayed there all week in practice, and Friday night he was front and center in the Bull Dogs’ backfield. Holt carried 29 times for career-highs of 135 yards and four touchdowns to lead North to its first win of the season, a 30-8 Conference Indiana decision at Franklin Central.
“There was nothing but excitement,” Holt said about receiving the text. “I was so excited to get ready to run the ball. I played last year, and I’ve been missing it the whole year, so I’m glad I finally got to do something.”
Holt, who still played defense on Friday, had not carried the ball all season.
“Our offense needed a spark,” North coach Tim Bless said. “Everybody is fighting their tails off. We kind of had a feeling that Josh could provide a spark. When we handed him the ball last year, he did great things with it. It was his chance for an opportunity, and boy, did he make the most of it.”
The Bull Dogs (1-3, 1-1) looked like they might be headed for another long night early in the first quarter. They stopped the Flashes (2-2, 1-1) on fourth-and-goal from the 7, but three plays later Michael Vogel was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
North got the ball back and drove 71 yards in nine plays, with Holt taking it the final 17. Early in the second quarter, wide receiver Wes Moore took the handoff on a reverse, pulled up and completed a 51-yard pass to Jared Newkirk. That set up a 3-yard run by Holt, and the Bull Dogs led 14-2.
Collin Ebel kicked a 29-yard field goal with 57 seconds left in the first half to make it 17-2. North got the ball back and drove to the 9 in the closing seconds, but Ebel missed a 26-yard attempt as time expired.
The Bull Dogs took the second-half kickoff and drove 65 yards in 14 plays, with Holt going in from the 9.
“We’re built for 12-play drives and outlasting a defensive line,” Bless said.
Franklin Central tried to make things interesting when Cory Durm hit Marcel Price for a 43-yard touchdown with 10:02 left in the game to cut the lead to 23-8. But North recovered the onside kick and drove for Holt’s final scoring run of the night, a 13-yard burst.
“Josh has been itching to get back on offense,” Vogel said. “He was a dual threat last year, and he’s a dual threat this year. He provided the spark that we needed. He made the kids miss, broke tackles and did what he had to do.”
The Bull Dogs’ defense held the Flashes to four first downs through the first three quarters and 220 yards of offense for the game. Durm was 1-of-13 passing, completing only the touchdown to Price, and was intercepted once by Ebel in the end zone.
“We showed signs of improvement last week, so it’s the evolution of young kids understanding our scheme, learning how to play at the speed you have to play at to be competitive,” Bless said.
The North players were ecstatic to pick up that elusive first victory.
“We were so close two of those three games we played,” Vogel said. “Just to persevere and execute on both sides of the ball, it’s great.”
“They’ve persevered,” Bless said. “They’ve weathered the storm. It’s so good that they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”
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