The Columbus East football team saw its 44-game regular-season winning streak come to an end Aug. 26 in a 30-13 loss at Columbus North.
Instead of getting discouraged, the Olympians went back to work.
Now, 13 weeks later, East is back in the state finals for the second time in four seasons. The Olympians will play Westfield on Saturday for the Class 5A state title at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We came back on Saturday and got to work,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “We did the same thing that we did every other Saturday. We prepare the same as every other week, and our goal still that Saturday morning was, ‘We’re going to keep getting better, and we’re going to get better by the tournament.'”
Since that Week 2 meeting with the Bull Dogs, East has won 12 consecutive games. All but one have come by at least 20 points.
Although this week’s destination didn’t seem all that likely after that North game, the East coaches and players didn’t waver.
“North is just a regular-season game,” Gaddis said. “They’re not in our conference. They’re not in our tournament. It’s a great environment to be in, but our goal was to be playing our best now.”
After winning all seven Hoosier Hills Conference contests by an average of more than 38 points a game, the 5A No. 4 Olympians faced a familiar foe in the first round of the sectional. They visited 5A No. 2 New Palestine, the team that had knocked them out of the playoffs the past two years.
This time, East dominated the Dragons in a 35-7 upset win.
“The measuring stick that we had at (the beginning of the season) was right in our sectional with New Pal,” Gaddis said. “We knew we were close to that caliber. We used that level of competition that we had to get to.”
The Olympians followed with lopsided home wins against Martinsville and Whiteland to claim the sectional title. East then went on the road and beat Zionsville 42-35 for the regional crown.
Last week, the Olympians won 35-15 at 5A No. 3 Bloomington South to earn a matchup with 5A No. 5 Westfield.
“We’ve had to go on the road and beat some good people, so it won’t hurt us to go on the road again,” Gaddis said.
East is led by the dual backfield threat of juniors Josh Major and Jamon Hogan. Major has completed 53-of-67 passes for 1,132 yards, with 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions and carried 144 times for 1,132 yards and 18 scores. Hogan has carried 240 times for 2,272 yards and 38 touchdowns.
The Olympians average 350 yards a game rushing. Last week, they threw the ball only one time, and that went for a touchdown.
“A coaching friend of mine (former Heritage Hills coach Bob Clayton), one thing I’ll always remember he said is, ‘Don’t get bored with running the ball off tackle. If you’re getting four yards, you’re getting four yards. It’s one of the best plays in football,'” Gaddis said. “We’ve been able to run the ball in the tournament, and I think you have to be able to do that.”
Gaddis thought going into the season, his team had a chance to be as good as anybody in 5A.
“That was our goal,” Gaddis said. “But potential only gives you the opportunity. There’s no guarantee with your potential. It’s what you do with it.”
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Columbus East (13-1)
Aug. 19;Bloomington North;W 62-7
Aug. 26;at Columbus North;L 30-13
Sept. 2;Seymour;W 56-30
Sept. 9;Jennings County;W 36-0
Sept. 16;at New Albany;W 56-15
Sept. 23;at Floyd Central;W 49-14
Sept. 30;Madison;W 49-0
Oct. 8;Jeffersonville (at Lucas Oil);W 56-14
Oct. 14;at Bedford North Lawrence;W 62-24
Oct. 21;at New Palestine;W 35-7
Oct. 28;Martinsville;W 49-9
Nov. 4;Whiteland;W 56-31
Nov. 11;at Zionsville;W 42-35
Nov. 28;at Bloomington South;W 35-15