The Columbus North-Columbus East football game is a match-up that has absolutely no importance in terms of championships, titles or playoffs.
It matches teams that are neither in the same conference or even class. It occurs early in the season, in this case on Friday at Columbus East, at a time when we’re still sweating through hot August nights.
So I asked Columbus North wide receiver Alex Algee about his impression of the game.
“It’s the biggest event in my football career,” Algee said.
Well, alrighty then.
Obviously, there is at least one guy who thinks this is pretty big stuff.
This is my fourth season of covering a high school football season here in Columbus and each season, as I write features about the players, I often ask about their fondest memory of high school football.
I couldn’t put an exact percentage on the replies, but let’s just say the East-North game comes up a lot. More than a lot.
For whatever reason, it’s part of the human condition that we would rather beat up family members than people we don’t know. We love ’em, but we’ll dunk on their head every time on that plastic Little Tikes basketball hoop.
When it comes to football, all these kids in Columbus are connected. Countless times, they have played on the same PAAL squad, or at the same middle school. They are, in a word, family.
Then, for personal reasons, they split ways and head off to East or North, which gives them license to knock heads in IHSAA-sanctioned events. Oh boy.
It becomes the perfect storm. Family members wearing different colors.
Nobody understands this perfect storm better than the veteran coaches at each school, Tim Bless at Columbus North and Bob Gaddis at Columbus East.
Back in the prehistoric days when I played high school football, our own coach used to come in the locker room with a letter, supposedly mailed by our rivals. It made fun of us, our parents, our school, our area, even our farm animals.
Now, it didn’t make sense that the opponent would attempt to incense us so much that blood would come spitting out of our eyeballs at kickoff, but there it was. We would be beating our heads against lockers before taking the field. Why this helps, I was never sure.
No sense using common sense when your emotional jets are rushing full-speed ahead.
Both Gaddis and Bless understand they do not have to contrive any strange tricks to squeeze emotion from their players. In this day and age of keeping emotions in control to make better decisions, you could say the opposite is true.
The coachspeak this week, indeed, will be guarded and cordial.
Sure, a win Friday would be a huge prize for either team, but both coaches have a master plan and they want their players to stay that course. Getting too high or too low for a game this early in the season might throw that master plan off course.
And yet, after all, we are talking about kids.
So you can tell them all your want about it being a non-conference game, one that won’t matter once the playoffs begin, something that won’t hang a banner in the gymnasium.
They will come out, see seven thousand fans lined up around the field, and hear a roar from the fans that they could, quite possibly, never experience again. Win or lose, it will be a wonderful, magical, special atmosphere.
For the players, it might be the biggest event in their football careers.
So relax, and enjoy.