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THE Columbus North and Columbus East football teams are not going to ease their way into the 2013 season when it begins Friday night.
For North, visiting Plainfield looks to be a team improving under head coach Brian Woodard after 5-5 (2012) and 2-8 (2011) seasons.
“It’s been one of those issues where after having 15 consecutive winning seasons, we had a couple of years where we got drilled with injuries,” Woodard said. “We have been unlucky.
“But I never cared much to listen to somebody talk about injuries. Nobody really cares.”
WHO Columbus North PlaYS
SCHOOL: Plainfield Quakers
WHERE: Columbus North
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
2012 RECORD: 5-5
HEAD COACH: Brian Woodard (eighth season, 50-28)
KEY PLAYERS: Senior QB Brady Nichols, sophomore TB Jacob Maple, senior LB Michael Conley, senior TB/SS Josh Miller
WHO Columbus EasT PLAYS
SCHOOL: Bloomington North Cougars
WHERE: Bloomington North
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
2012 RECORD: 2-8
HEAD COACH: Scott Bless (ninth season, 40-49)
KEY PLAYERS: Senior TB/CB Hunter Jastremski, senior OT Zach Stephenson, senior K/P Brock Elmore
Bull Dogs coach Tim Bless understands, though.
“Historically, they are a front runner in the Mid-State Conference,” Bless said. “I have never faced Plainfield since I started coaching here in 2000, but my brother, Mark, was head coach at Mooresville, and they had some fierce battles. I talked to Mark, and he said Plainfield is a physical team that always has won via the weight room. I think they probably are a lot like us.”
It was mutual admiration after Woodard did some research into Bless-coached teams.
“The recurring phrase was “very disciplined,” Woodard said. “I’ve been told that when we get done playing North, we will know what our weaknesses are because Coach Bless will exploit them. I have tremendous respect for that (Bless football) family.”
Like North, Plainfield will attempt to pound away and set up the play-action pass.
Quakers quarterback Brady Nichols is a “program guy” who is going to be asked to manage the game in his first season as a starter.
“He has got to provide those intangible qualities,” Woodard said. “I tell him that maybe the best pass in a game will be the one he didn’t throw.”
Woodard is banking on a pair of tailbacks to get the defense’s attention and potentially open up the passing game for Nichols.
Sophomore Jacob Maple is an “Eric Dickerson” kind of back who is 6-foot-2 with an upright running style.
“In the scrimmage, he found out that the guys hit harder at the varsity level, so the concern, with him being a young guy, is hanging on to the football,” Woodard said.
The other tailback is senior Josh Miller, who also is the starting strong safety.
“He is the best overall athlete on the team,” Woodard said. “He is the 100-meters champ in Hendricks County, so you know he can run. He is explosive. He knows that this is his opportunity.”
Along with Miller, senior linebacker Michael Conley makes things go on defense for the Quakers.
“For us to play well defensively, we have to be solid up the middle, and Michael is solid,” Woodard said.
Although Plainfield has a senior-oriented team, many of the players have assumed new roles.
“Playing on Friday nights, until you experience it, it’s hard to prepare for it,” Woodard said.
First up for East
East will face a team that it had to rally late in the fourth quarter to beat 31-28 in 2012.
“Bloomington North has a big, physical team,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “As always, they run a great offseason program.
“They graduated quite a few kids, but they are well-coached, and they know what they want to do. They want to set up their passing game by physically running the football.”
Bloomington North has three players who are considered front-runners for all-state honors.
Senior offensive lineman Zach Stephenson (6-2, 282) is one of the strongest players in the state, as he proved in an offseason weightlifting competition at Columbus East. He is a dominating player on the football field, and the Olympians will have their hands full trying to deal with him.
Senior Hunter Jastremski is a quick running back/cornerback who will draw attention from college programs. Kicker/punter Brock Elmore, another senior, makes Bloomington North solid in the special teams area.
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