It was only one play in Columbus East’s 41-6 domination of visiting Jeffersonville on Friday night, but it best described the difference between the programs.
Early in the fourth quarter, in a pouring rain, the Red Devils back couldn’t handle a high snap from his own 13-yard line. As the ball sailed toward the end zone, he turned and watched it, then decided it wasn’t worth pursuing.
Meanwhile, the Olympians’ defenders swarmed to the ball with defensive end Brock Patterson arriving first. Patterson fell on the ball for the touchdown, and the following scene was like a group of boys playing in the rain. They splashed and laughed and celebrated. Heads down, the Red Devils walked back to the sideline trailing 34-6 after having seen the Hoosier Hills Conference championship literally slip away.
Or perhaps it was more of a flood.
Columbus East (8-0 overall and 6-0 in the HHC) had clinched a ninth-consecutive conference championship in dominating style over the only program that seemed up to the challenge.
“A lot of people didn’t expect us to be here (as conference champs),” said East coach Bob Gaddis, who didn’t seem to mind that he was sopping wet after the final horn. “They expected us to be rebuilding. I am very happy for those eight seniors. They have gone through a lot.
“But I told the team, ‘Don’t be satisfied.’ There is more work to do.”
While East handled its duties with precision, turning over the ball just once in the fourth
quarter after the game had been decided, Jeffersonville (5-3, 4-2) fell apart under the difficult conditions.
Red Devils coach Lonnie Oldham might have rethought his strategy to bring his players back out on the field only two minutes before the opening kickoff, as if he was trying to keep them dry. His team reacted as if hadn’t seen water.
His quarterback, Tyler Fridley, had thrown for more than 2,000 yards coming into the game to receivers who included three who averaged over 19 yards a catch. Against East, Fridley completed just three passes the entire game for 21 yards. Fridley simply couldn’t hold on the ball whether trying to pass or run. Eventually, Oldham completely shut down any attempts to throw the ball even though his team trailed East 27-0 at halftime.
Although East barely attempted to pass the ball in the soggy conditions — quarterback Alex Cowan threw two incomplete passes the entire game — it handled business flawlessly with its running game. East went 50 yards on its second drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead. Cowan completed a nine-play drive with a 7-yard run.
After the two teams swapped unsuccessful drives, East’s defense took over. On first down from the 18-yard line, Fridley went back to pass but was sacked by Christian Wichman. On the next play, Fridley fumbled the snap and defensive tackle Dalton Bateman recovered at the Red Devils’ 9. On the next play, East tailback Markell Jones carried over for the touchdown.
On Jeffersonville’s next play from scrimmage, tailback Austin Hines fumbled with Bateman again on the recovery, again at the 9. On fourth and goal from the 1, Cowan hit the middle of the line on a sneak, bounced back, then went to his right and scored for a 21-0 lead.
Oldham said he wanted his team to match East’s intensity early, and it just didn’t happen.
Before the half was over, East had built a 27-0 lead. On a play that started at the Red Devils’ 29, Patterson sacked Fridley and the ball went flying backward. After getting batted around, Wichman fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown.
Jeffersonville finally got on the scoreboard with a 10-yard touchdown reception by Dalton Adkins in the third quarter, but the game had been decided.
Patterson’s touchdown put the game completely out of reach; and Cowan, who rushed for 83 yards on 29 carries, added his third touchdown run with a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter.