As Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis faced his players after a practice this week, he reminded them that this would not be a good time for a post-conference championship letdown.
The No. 1-ranked Olympians must travel to Bedford North Lawrence on Friday in a somewhat meaningless game since East has the Hoosier Hills Conference title in the bag.
Even so, Gaddis wants his players to put an exclamation point on an undefeated regular season.
Although East will be a big favorite against a team it has beaten every year since 2006, it won’t be easy.
About the Stars
EAST’s opponent: Bedford North Lawrence Stars
When: 7 p.m. Friday at Bedford North Lawrence High School
Record: Bedford North Lawrence 4-4 overall, 4-2 Hoosier Hills Conference after a 27-7 win against Madison on Friday
Most recent meeting: Lost to Columbus East 54-14 in 2011
Key players: QB Jesse Millikan, RB Jade Daab, RB Brad Lake, WR Ben Manzenberger
Bedford North Lawrence coach: Brett Szabo
The game is sandwiched between East’s big victory against Jeffersonville to clinch the conference championship and its sectional-opener against No. 6-ranked East Central.
It will be Senior Night for Bedford North Lawrence, which has won four games in a row after losing its first four games of the season. The Stars are 4-2 in HHC play.
Bedford North Lawrence, which runs the option, has an explosive rushing offense and enough of a passing game to keep teams honest. The Stars’ top threat is quarterback Jesse Millikan, who has thrown for 867 yards and rushed for 463 yards and eight touchdowns. Running backs Jade Daab (663 yards rushing) and Brad Lake have the versatility to run or catch passes. Fullback Kole Korvela has gained 448 yards rushing with seven touchdowns.
When the Stars do go to the air, wide receiver Ben Manzenberger has proven to be an exceptional athlete capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.
“They force you into assignment football,” Gaddis said. “And their quarterback understands what will work against what front. He is good at that.
“They also do more cut blocking than any team that we’ve seen, and it’s hard to simulate that in practice because we don’t want to cut our players.”
Defensively, the Stars will try to confuse the Olympians with a lot of movement and stunts.
Bedford North Lawrence coach Brett Szabo has built a successful program, which has had trouble getting over the hump against East, so the Olympians can expect the Stars’ best effort. Although the Stars’ schedule has loaded up the weaker conference teams toward the end of the season, it would appear they are an improving team.
“And that is a tough place to go to play,” Gaddis said.