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IT’S not difficult to ascertain.
The Columbus North at Columbus East rivalry football game Friday night most likely will hinge on the Bull Dogs’ ability to contain Markell Jones, often labeled “a beast,” by opposing coaches.
Jones put up 260 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns on Friday in a 49-21 win against Bloomington North, a team known for playing solid defense.
“He’s got a lot of God-given ability,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “He is a tremendous talent who understands where to run the football. He has great vision.”
North coach Tim Bless said it will be the ultimate challenge. “From this time last year, absolutely he has improved,” Bless said of Jones.
“His confidence and his body control are better. And that offensive line gets off the ball and moves people.”
Certainly, no football game can be decided by one player. Here is a look at the five keys to winning this year’s classic encounter:
Markell on the run. For East, it’s finding a way to open holes when everyone on the other side of the ball will be trying to stop Jones. That was the case most of last season, and Jones rushed for 1,610 yards. North, meanwhile, will have to fix its shoddy tackling, on display Friday in a 34-32 loss to Plainfield, in a hurry. North gave up five scoring plays of 22 yards or more and three of 58 yards or more. North middle linebacker Luke Teague will have to be the stopper.
Big-play Vogel. North’s rushing attack accounted for 327 rushing yards against Plainfield, which had a stout defensive line. If Bull Dogs quarterback Michael Vogel, who rushed for 158 yards, can get past the line of scrimmage, defenders are going to have a hard time bringing him down one-on-one due to his power. North’s offensive line needs to continue its dominating play. East will be hard pressed to prevent North from chewing up the clock with its offensive possessions. The quicker the Olympians can get the defense off the field, the more chances Jones will have to run the ball.
Circus atmosphere. Both teams have a similar challenge in making sure players don’t get caught up in the pomp and circumstance. They will be playing in front of the biggest crowd of the season, and emotions will boil over. East will have the advantage by being the home team with the presumably larger crowd. Their following should be able to disrupt North’s offense with sheer noise.
Turnovers. Although the Olympians are big favorites, turnovers are the great equalizer. A tough part of playing in a loud, frenzied atmosphere is ball security. A miscommunication between a quarterback and a wide receiver could result in an interception going back the other way for a touchdown. Turnovers feed momentum, so both teams will stress taking care of the football.
Conditioning. The game has come down to the final minute of play the past two seasons. If both squads are locked in a similar battle, especially on a night where the temperature is expected to be in the 80s, all those sprints during the summer could be the deciding factor.
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