With dusk falling and a-hint of chill in the air, eight seniors stood on the Columbus East High School football field Tuesday evening with the realization that they will be playing the final regular season home game of their careers Friday.
It just so happens to be a big game as well, a showdown with Jeffersonville to decide the Hoosier Hills Conference championship.
While football seasons never seem to go to plan, this one pretty much did for the undefeated Olympians, who have advanced on schedule for head coach Bob Gaddis and his coaching staff.
“To tell you the truth, we went into this season with a lot of guys who had experience, but were young,” Gaddis said. “This season probably has played out as well as expected. I’ve been happy with the leadership and I’ve been happy the way we can prepare for games. That makes it fun.”
Although East’s star tailback, sophomore Markell Jones, has been in and out of the lineup with a lower leg injury, the Olympians never shifted from the things they do well offensively.
“We knew what we hoped we would be,” Gaddis said. “We’ve got a rule. We put a lot of stuff in early in the year, then try to focus on certain things.”
The way teams are allowed to work out together during the summer, Gaddis said it creates fewer surprises for coaches during the season. “Now you’re going to camp early in the summer, and that’s where we made a few changes that week. We moved Jared Whitehead to tight end and Evan Kuhn to center and Seth Frownfelter to tackle (which in turn moved senior Rob McKee to guard). That’s the way summer is now.”
Gaddis said it used to be that a coach would make those changes just before the season.
Obviously, if such changes didn’t work out, there was tinkering to be done during the season. By the time Columbus East played its first game, Gaddis knew the switch to a power running attack was going to work.
“If I’ve been surprised by anything, it’s how much our sophomores and juniors have stepped up,” said McKee. “I was a little worried (in the summer). But, honestly, it all hit me on our first drive against Bloomington North, which was a good football team, that everything was going to be OK.”
East didn’t have the offensive balance of previous years, but it was OK. “I wouldn’t say it is more fun to run it the way we do, but it is a lot harder on your body,” McKee said.
That’s quite all right with McKee and his teammates, who know that a little pain goes into a 7-0 record.
“We run the ball better than we ever have,” said senior tight end Cody Hempstead. “Everyone thought we might not do too much this season, but I think we have improved a lot.”
East has been held under 31 points only once all season, a 23-20 victory over Columbus North. The Olympians have put 54 or more points on the board three times and could easily have done it two or three more times if Gaddis had so desired.
However, Gaddis has stayed true to his belief that every man on the roster should contribute, and he has given everyone on the roster playing time during games.
“This has been a good group from the word ‘Go.’ “ Gaddis said. “They’ve bought into the team concept as well as any group we’ve had.”