BLOOMINGTON — As the wind whipped and a driving rain pummeled the Bloomington South football field, coach Tim Bless told his Columbus North team in the locker room that they could take the conditions one of two ways.
They could be miserable, or they could have fun with it.
The Bull Dogs chose the latter. They used a stifling defense to hold on for their second win in a row, a 14-6 Conference Indiana decision.
“This combination of wind, cold temperature, rain, I don’t know that I’ve been in too many games like this,” Bless said. “Once we knew the forecast coming into the game, it was a rallying cry.”
Because of the conditions, North (3-5, 3-3) didn’t punt until less than three minutes remained, and that was blocked. The Bull Dogs went for it on fourth down seven times, converting two.
After the Panthers (1-7, 0-6) scored to cut the lead to 14-6 with 4:50 left in the third quarter, North turned the ball over on downs in its own territory on the next two possessions. But both times, the Bull Dogs’ defense stopped Bloomington South on fourth down.
Then, after the blocked punt, the Panthers took over at the North 47 with 2:49 remaining. But four plays netted minus-5 yards, and the Bull Dogs took over and ran out the clock.
“We have great confidence in our defense,” Bless said. “With the way that wind was howling and the driving rain, we didn’t want to risk a long snap. It’s far enough outside of the red zone that ‘Let’s go for it on fourth down. Let’s try to eat up some field position.’ But our defense had our back all night.”
North scored two second-quarter touchdowns and led 14-0 at halftime. Quarterback Michael Vogel scored the first on a two-yard sneak. The second came on a three-yard run by Josh Holt.
Holt got the majority of work in the backfield after Jamaal Halliburton sprained his ankle. Halliburton, who had taken over for injured starter Jesse Tompkins, finished with 11 carries for 29 yards.
Holt carried 22 times for a career-high 108 yards, and Jonathan Byers added nine carries for 36 yards.
“We just have a great offensive line this year and an even better backfield,” offensive and defensive lineman Thomas Shoaf said. “We trust Vogel with the ball, and we just push and push, and he gets it in there.”
Shoaf helped lead a defense that limited the Panthers to 130 total yards. Eighty-five of those came on a touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation by Johnathan Winters. The Bull Dogs held Bloomington South to 45 yards on its other 39 plays.
“Just fill in your gaps,” Shoaf said. “Having the D-line in their correct gaps and having the linebackers and safeties fill as needed. Our defense had a huge night, and our offense put up the points that they needed to put up.”