The scores from the past two Columbus East victories over North would indicate that the Bull Dogs haven’t progressed much the past year.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you wear blue, OK, I know you are disappointed. I get it. Back-to-back 48-13 and 42-14 losses to your rival have to sting.
With that said, North (1-1) is progressing much more quickly than it would seem.
You don’t think so? I am going out on a limb here. I will say that the Bull Dogs beat Bloomington North on the road Friday night.
This is a Cougars squad that lost to East 42-19 in the opener and then crushed Bedford North Lawrence 41-14 on Friday. This is a team that won a sectional title last season. This is a team that beat Columbus North a year ago.
Bloomington North has a 6-foot-3, 210-pound wide receiver in Drew Ludwig, who is exactly the type of guy that North couldn’t deal with a year ago. And the Bull Dogs would have had no answer for Bloomington North quarterback Jack Smith.
Like I said, though, things are different.
Sure, Markell Jones snapped off some huge plays against the Bull Dogs. But he isn’t mortal, so we can forgive some of those.
Ludwig will get his one big-play touchdown Friday because he is that good. Smith will account for another touchdown because he is that good. Other than those two scores, I expect it to be all Bull Dogs on a great defensive night.
That is the real difference in this team.
The move of Brice McDaniel back to linebacker was a good one. He was somewhat limited at defensive end a year ago but now can show off his playmaking ability all over the field. Combined with junior linebacker Sean Dasovich and senior linebacker Jacob Hamblin, Columbus North might just have a shut-down defense by the time the playoffs roll around and they get used to playing with each other.
Playing a power like East also disguised the fact that North is better offensively this season. Even playing without tailback Josh Holt, who sprained his knee in a scrimmage and has missed the first two games, it’s obvious North has more offensive options this season.
The pressure really lands on the shoulders of junior quarterback Mitchell Kelley. Unlike the confrontation with East, the Bull Dogs’ running game is going to have some success against Bloomington North.
However, Kelley has to be on target with his short passes. He wasn’t against the Olympians, and that made it much easier to defend the run.
That’s not to blame Kelley, as he was under intense pressure all night. North won’t see another team as gifted defensively as East until the sectionals.
Kelley has a 6-foot-3 tight end in Drew Schoeberl and a 6-foot-3 wide receiver in Weston Moore, and he simply has to get the ball to those guys more. We should see it this week against the Cougars.
The biggest challenge for North could be fighting off the mental hangover from a crushing defeat against its rival. The crowd on Friday was awesome, fans pushing up against the fence around the field in every available spot. It was the Super Bowl of high school games, while this is more of a regular work week.
Last season Columbus North started the season 0-3 after close losses to Plainfield and Bloomington North. A win on Friday would give the Bull Dogs a 2-1 mark going into games against Franklin Central and Terre Haute South, a pair of teams North beat a year ago.
It was only a couple of days ago that I am sure some fans were mumbling that North’s season is ruined. But a 4-1 start is very possible.
Confidence can cure all.
It all starts on Friday, when these Bull Dogs start to turn the corner. Let’s hope it’s in the right direction.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.