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VISITING New Albany worked hard to get Columbus East’s best offensive players off the field Friday night, and managed to accomplish it in unorthodox ways.
Twice Olympians quarterback Alex Cowan had to come off the field after having his helmet twisted off his head. And in the third quarter, East tailback Markell Jones left the field with a leg cramp.
But it wasn’t exactly cause for celebration. East linebacker Christian Wichman was inserted on offense.
Wichman, who has had only a handful of opportunities on offense this season, with Cowan and Jones carrying the load, gained 100 yards on seven carries and scored three touchdowns in East’s 48-20 victory against a solid Bulldogs squad.
“Whatever opportunities Coach (Bob) Gaddis gives me, I want to do my best,” said Wichman, who scored on 24-, 34- and 8-yard touchdown runs. “I think we were struggling a bit and this game was a wake-up call for us. I wanted to help us move the ball.”
East looked like it would blow the Bulldogs off their home field when it scored two quick touchdowns in the first quarter. Cowan capped East’s first drive on a two-yard run and wide receiver J.T. Voelker made it 14-0 with a seven-yard catch from Cowan on the next drive.
But then the expected battle between two of the state’s top tailbacks emerged. New Albany senior Tuwan Payton burst through a big hole in the line and was never touched on his way to a 70-yard touchdown run. He finished with 24 carries for 164 yards.
And when the Olympians went three and out on their next offensive series, New Albany marched 58 yards in six plays with quarterback Zach Donan finishing the drive with a 33-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Jared Jones. Suddenly the score was 14-14, and it was obvious East would have to work for a victory.
Fortunately for East, it has arguably the top tailback in the state in Jones, and a studly offensive line. In the second quarter, Jones swept around the right side and ran through New Albany’s defense for a 64-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
Wichman added a 24-yard touchdown run on East’s next series and the Olympians were back in control at 28-14, which was the score at halftime.
When Cowan fumbled on the opening series of the third quarter, New Albany made the Olympians pay with a 14-yard touchdown run by Payton. The botched extra point kick turned into an incomplete pass and East led 28-20.
From there, the Olympians took care of business, outscoring the visitors 20-0 on touchdown runs by Jones, who finished with 200 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, and two more by Wichman.
East’s defense also contained Payton, who threatened to go the distance every time he touched the ball.
“We moved some guys outside and forced him back inside,” said Wichman, who spends most of his time as a linebacker. “That kid was explosive.”
Gaddis said it was no surprise New Albany (3-2 overall, 2-1 Hoosier Hills Conference) gave his squad a tough effort.
“We said before the game that New Albany was an awful good team,” Gaddis said. “It took us a while to adjust to their team speed.
“But I thought our kids got really fired up. I thought that was the most emotional, fast playing that we’ve done this season. It was a physical game and I think we needed to play a four-quarter physical game.”
East, the state’s No. 1 4A team, moved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in HHC play.
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