High drama: North-East game could be a classic

Even at their own school, the Columbus North football players are reminded of the past two seasons’ rivalry games against Columbus East.

Following a tough workout Monday, Bull Dogs senior Brice McDaniel talked about one bit of information that he has heard.

“They’ve smashed you the last two years,” McDaniel said.

Indeed, the Olympians used tailback Markell Jones as a battering ram and dominated the 2013 and 2014 renewals of one of Indiana’s best and most competitive rivalry series. East won 48-13 in 2013 and 42-14 in 2014.

But that’s the past.

When the two teams meet tonight at Columbus East High School, it promises to be one of the best games of the series, which began in 1972.

Columbus North opened its season with an impressive 54-7 destruction of Franklin while Columbus East blanked Bloomington North 27-0.

Considering that the Olympians scored more than 27 points in every game last season, could that be a sign that they have come back to the pack?

“No chance,” said Columbus North head coach Tim Bless, who laughed at the thought. “They dominated Bloomington North both on the line and then in the green grass athletically.

“The 2015 Olympians, I don’t see a chink in their armor. They are good 22 players across the board. They are rock solid everywhere.”

East coach Bob Gaddis knows that the Bull Dogs have reloaded and offer a formidable challenge. “First, you start with the fact that they are so well-coached,” Gaddis said. “I’ve made the comment before that it is fun to coach against a team that has an idea what it wants to do, a philosophy. That’s fun.

“They had great size, great speed and great strength. We do a strength contest in the off-season with them and I think it is good for all the guys to see each other.”

More than 5,000 fans are expected to pack the stands and surround the field for tonight’s game.

“This is a big game for our schools and all the students,” Gaddis said. “They enjoy it because they will see all their friends.

“I think the difference in this rivalry is that there is no set feeder school. This is a ‘choice’ community. These kids really do play on the same teams with each other in elementary and middle school and they do everything socially together. When you say that these kids know each other, they absolutely do.

“I don’t know that you find that anyplace else. And not only do the kids know each other, but the families know each other. It is a very respectful rivalry.”

North senior Drew Schoeberl, who will play defensive end and tight end tonight, has been on three losing varsity teams in the rivalry game.

“I think this is a new team that has a good vibe to it,” he said. “I think our team is not only more focused, but farther along in terms of execution.

“It’s my senior year and I haven’t won a North-East game, but you can’t blow this up too much.”

Both coaching staffs have urged their players to trust their systems, which are geared to having them prepared for every game.

“It is a big game, and there will be a lot more people there,” McDaniel said. “In reality, though, it’s a game. We have to give 100 percent, just like we always do. We have to focus on doing our job, and not getting caught up in the emotions.”

Columbus East senior safety Nick Andrie echoed the same theme. “We just play the way we play,” Andrie said. “We play every snap hard and work together. We just have to be focused.

“But this game is a great experience. You see a lot of people from Columbus.”

With tremendous speed at tailback and wide receiver, both teams have the ability to break long touchdown plays at any time.

“It all starts up front with them,” Bless said. “They do a great job of restablishing the line of scrimmage. We can’t let them do that. Our front has to be stout all night long.

“This is going to be a big-game atmosphere and it might come down to who can play the cleanest game.”

“North has well-trained athletes,” Gaddis said. “Usually when you face a team, you find an area to attack. I don’t see anything with them.

“So it comes down to execution. You can’t do it with smoke and mirrors. You’ve got to execute your plan.”