As high school football practice begins today at schools around Indiana, a couple of the biggest questions concern Columbus football teams.
At Columbus North, it will be interesting to see if the Bull Dogs have effectively channeled all that anger from a poor 2013 season into a positive force.
“We took our lumps last year,” North coach Tim Bless said. “That didn’t sit well with our players.”
North began its off-season conditioning program earlier than ever before, only a couple of weeks after the 2013 season of 3-7 ended. Bless said his players’ work has been impressive.
The feeling around the North campus is this team will bounce back to the program’s standards. Under Bless, the Bull Dogs only have had two losing seasons, including 2013, in the past 12 years.
Before 2013, North hadn’t failed to win more than three games in a season since 2000 when the team was 1-9.
At Columbus East, people will be watching to see how the Olympians respond after winning a 4A state championship in 2013.
“As a team, we’ve already put that behind us,” East coach Bob Gaddis said of the state championship. “We wanted to be the best team we can be. All these players want to be on the best team they’ve ever been on.
“How that all falls into place, you never know.”
Gaddis said he called some of his friends around the state who had won state championships and asked them how they handled it going into the next season.
Considering East’s long history of success under Gaddis, 10 consecutive seasons of nine wins or more, it is likely the 2014 team will be as focused as ever.
However, East might be chasing more success without the pure athletic talent it had a season ago.
The Olympians lost one of the state’s top quarterbacks in Alex Cowan, most of its wide receivers corps and three terrific offensive linemen in Evan Kuhn, Seth Frownfelter and Jared Whiteside.
Also gone are top defensive linemen Brock Patterson and Dalton Bateman and a wealth of linebackers.
Can East reload? It remains to be seen.
Bless, in contrast, doesn’t have to be so concerned about lost talent so much as developing the players who return.
“We’ve got a nice mix of returning starters that made this a fairly veteran team,” Bless said. “But we also have some young, talented players who possess a lot of swag. They want to earn positions.”
North did lose a couple big-hearted players in quarterback Michael Vogel and linebacker Luke Teague, who kept the Bull Dogs in most games during a down year. It will be interested to see which players inject that level of toughness that Vogel and Teague provided.
The Bull Dogs lost three games last season by a touchdown or less, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a dramatic turnaround in 2014.
Columbus North begins the season Aug. 22 at Plainfield while Columbus begins the season that same day by hosting Bloomington North.