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Everyone knows that Columbus East sophomore Markell Jones is a beast.
So it was no surprise that with the season on the line for both East and host Evansville Reitz with just over five minutes remaining in the regional championship game on Saturday night, all helmets would be pointed at the 5-foot-11, 205-pound tailback.
After all, Jones had scored all four of the Olympians’ touchdowns to that point.
It was a third-and-three play from the East 24-yard line that came three plays after the Panthers cut East’s lead to 27-21 to get the crowd into a stomping, screaming, belching hissy fit. If you were wearing East orange, you had to be feeling that “oh no” indigestion boiling in the pit of your stomach.
While East’s defense rose to the occasion all through the night, playing some vaunted Gumby bend, bend, bend but don’t break defense, Reitz seemed perfectly capable of negotiating any length of the field if it only could force East to punt.
And, oh, that missed extra point by East. Pressure isn’t just applied to a tire, you know.
So now all East’s offensive linemen had to do was to clear out a sewing-needle opening in an 11-man wall of Panthers, who really weren’t going to pay attention to anyone on the field not wearing No. 28.
No fool, Olympians coach Bob Gaddis wasn’t about to get cute. He probably could have run wide receiver J.T. Voelker 20 yards free on a fly pattern and no one would have bothered covering him. Maybe.
Gaddis knew well that his team has hung its undefeated hat on its offensive line maulers and the running skills of Jones and quarterback Alex Cowan. Why change now with a 2,200-pound wall of Reitz humanity between the Olympians and another date with Cathedral?
So Cowan handed the ball to Jones and then got a perfect view of talent in motion.
Jones hit the wall quickly, confident his main men would drill a hole. He went in one side and out the other.
The Panthers had taken their best shot at the beast and whiffed. Jones’ touchdown run was five yards of courage and another 71 yards of victory lap. That whoosh you could hear was the air coming out of the Reitz balloon.
After the two-point conversion, East had a 35-21 lead, which ended up being the final. A well-deserved regional championship was in hand for the Olympians, who kind of won an Indiana-minus-Cathedral championship.
But on Saturday night, imposing Cathedral was still far in the future. At 13-0, with a regional championship in hand and a beast with five touchdowns and 217 yards rushing, the Olympians were champions once again.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.
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