Thirty-seven carries over a two-day period didn’t seem to bother Columbus East running back Markell Jones in the very least.
Jones, who rushed for 296 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-19 victory over visiting Bloomington North, said the point of his off-season work was durability.
“That’s what we wanted to do, set the tone for 2014,” Jones said on Saturday after the Olympians finished off the Cougars in the game that was resumed on Saturday afternoon after lightning shut down the contest in the third quarter on Friday night. “I’m all right. I worked hard in the weight room to be strong.”
If the win against Bloomington North, a sectional champ a year ago, is any indication, opponents will get a steady dose of Jones as long as they remain competitive. The Olympians now have to find ways to develop their other explosive offensive players.
At the top of the list is a tight end tandem of Rhett Myers and Karson Kamman that should cause a lot of problems for opponents. The pair of 6-foot-3 bookends combined for six catches for 64 yards and
it appears they have just scratched the surface.
East also must find a way to get the ball to wide receiver Cameron Wilson, who only touched the ball once against Bloomington North but scored an 18-yard touchdown. His speed makes him an explosive weapon.
Perhaps most important for the Olympians will be working running back/slot Steven O’Neal into the offensive game plan. O’Neal had more than 100 yards offense from the line of scrimmage with 83 yards rushing and 28 yards receiving.
If O’Neal can be a threat in the backfield, it would take the heat off Jones, much the way graduated quarterback Alex Cowan kept defenses honest in 2013.
With quarterback K.J. McCarter looking effective as a runner with 12 carries for 46 yards, it appears East has some options.
“We’ve got a three-headed monster in the backfield,” said Jones referring to himself, McCarter and O’Neal.
The offensive line is a work in progress as four holding penalties would attest, but the potential is there.
“I think we did pretty good,” said senior offensive guard Joey Bastian. “Our younger guys stepped up to the plate. The (penalties) might have been a little bit of discipline after we got a little tired. We might have lost a little technique.”
East coach Bob Gaddis said he was pleased with both his offensive and defensive line units. “We knew Bloomington North was a good football team, so I feel we did a nice job,” Gaddis said. “They’ve got some good athletes.”
Bloomington North junior quarterback Jack Smith threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns, but he also tossed three interceptions.
“We were challenged to contain their quarterback and we knew he was going to make some plays,” Gaddis said. “I thought our defensive line got after him, but all that pass rushing will wear you out.”
It didn’t seem to wear out linebacker Tyler Campbell, who often put the heat on Smith and finished with a pair of sacks. Campbell was a defensive back a season ago.
“I really was a linebacker playing safety last season,” Campbell said. “Linebacker is more my position.”
Campbell and the entire East defensive line was after Smith from the opening snap.
“Our defense as a whole played well,” Campbell said. “But we also have a lot of work to do to prepare for (Columbus) North. Obviously, we didn’t have a perfect game.”
Don’t tell Smith that the East defense didn’t have a great game.
“They get off the ball really well,” Smith said. “East is going to win a lot of games primarily on its defense. You have to give them credit because they were making me make throws I didn’t want to. That’s a great football team ... We all knew that.”