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For grillers and football tailgaters, action heats up before the game

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The high school football rivalry between the Columbus North Bull Dogs and the Columbus East Olympians, which renews itself Friday, has sizzled enough in recent years. But sometimes the hottest flames of the matchup leap just beyond the field.

That’s where people such as Scott Ballard hand off grilled hamburgers and hot dogs to fans hungry for more than just an exciting game. Whether or not the on-the-field contest is cooking, Columbus North Athletic Boosters such as Ballard watch their fundraising action unfold — as much as $50,000 per year, including year-round concessions at sports events.

“We call it tailgating,” said Ballard, vice president of the boosters club, who raises money for all the school’s athletic programs and the North band via their grilling goodwill. “But we know it’s not literally that in the traditional sense.”

But who will argue with a fire-starting fellow?

High school football kicked off last weekend.

The Indiana Hoosiers open the season Saturday.

And the Indianapolis Colts launch their latest NFL campaign Sept. 7, with the first home game Sept. 15 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Where’s there’s a passion for pigskin, can grilling gurus be far behind?

Ballard, just one of North’s cookout catalysts, expects to be grilling a little something extra with other volunteers Friday. That will include 500 pork chops donated by Marsh.

He acknowledged that he and other sideline chefs have to keep their preparation simple because they’re attempting to feed so many so quickly — including a crowd of thousands expected Friday at North.

Columbus East High School’s Olympian Quarterback Club members have been forced to forgo their tailgating and grilling this season because of construction near the school’s football field.

Instead, Columbus’ Word of Mouth Catering will prepare food for boosters and other fans at four remaining home games. Old National Bank is sponsoring the meals and Forman Investment Services and Ellis Tents are providing the covering.

Club president Lisa McCarter figures the change actually could become a blessing.

“We’re hoping that this will allow more people to get involved because there won’t be any food preparation,” McCarter said of the meals, which are meant more for fellowship than fundraising.

A tent that East is using for the $7 pulled pork meals will seat about 100 diners at a time.

McCarter cannot imagine football without food nearby.

“Why on earth,” she asked, “would we want to think about something like that?”

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