Last-minute touchdown sends Olympians past Bull Dogs

Friday night’s crosstown showdown lived up to the billing when Columbus North and Columbus East took the field.

The Bull Dogs came back to take their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter, but the Olympians made one last drive.

East was faced with second down at the North 16-yard line, Malachi Parks scrambled to find Crase Bergman down the right side of the field and he stretched over the right pylon for the go-ahead touchdown with 32 seconds left to stun North 35-31 and snap a four-game losing streak against its rival.

The Olympians (1-1) led 21-0 in the first half and led 28-7 early in the third quarter, but the Bull Dogs (1-1) stormed back to lead 31-28, until the late-game heroics by East.

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The annual rivalry game didn’t have the same feel this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the crowd size was limited to just 500 spectators as opposed to several thousand.

North started its opening drive by turning to no other than running back Blake Huffman. He was able to get the Bull Dogs past midfield. The Bull Dogs got a big run from Royce Lofton, but a penalty was called to bring the play back. It proved costly as East was able to stall the drive and forcing a punt.

Penalties once again became the story early on for the Olympians. Unlike last week’s game against Whiteland, they overcame the penalty woes. The first drive stalled because of a penalty, but in their next drive, another penalty was called.

The Olympians overcame the penalty when running back Mark McDonald saw an open hole and made the cutback for a 32-yard run for the touchdown to put East ahead 7-0.

On the ensuing possession, the East defense shut down Huffman. The Bull Dogs opted to pass on third-and-long. Finding no one open, quarterback Luke Hammons tucked it away to run for the down, but fumbled the ball and East recovered.

The Olympians took advantage of the turnover when Parks threw the short pass to Bergman, who used his speed and agility to run 67 yards for the touchdown to put East ahead 14-0 with 2:34 left in the first quarter.

The Olympians defense stalled the next couple of possessions for the Bull Dogs, and that only made East turn up the intensity. McDonald scored his second touchdown of the game off of a 66-yard burst down the left sideline to give the Olympians 21-0 with 7:34 left in the first half.

On the ensuing possession, North finally found the spark needed to ignite the offense. Hammons dropped a 50-yard pass to Keegan Castetter, who was tackled just short of the goal line. After Huffman didn’t break the plane on his first try, he made the second one count, punching in it for the 1-yard score to cut the deficit to 21-7 with 6:08 left in the first half.

The Bull Dogs looked to cut the deficit right before the end of the half. North thought they scored a touchdown when Hammons made a couple of scrambles to avoid the sack and passed to Hayden McDaniel for the touchdown, but a penalty was called to bring the ball back. On the next play, Jaxson Scruggs caught a 24 yard pass.

A couple plays later, Hammons scrambled to the left side and went out of bounds near the 3-yard line. On the next play with six seconds left, Hammons tried to run it in on the quarterback keeper, but was stopped short of the goal line, and the score remained 21-7 at the break.

The Olympians added on to their lead in the second half when they started to run the ball in an uptempo offense that would bleed a lot of the clock. Parks threw to Trey Neal, who was stopped short of the goal line. Parks then finished the drive with the 1-yard touchdown run to make it 28-7 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

The Bull Dogs responded back on the ensuing possession when Hammons found Castetter for the 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 28-14 with 1:05 left in the third quarter.

On the first play from scrimmage to start the fourth quarter, the Olympians turned the ball over deep in their own territory. The Bull Dogs took advantage when Huffman ran it in for the 6-yard score to make it 28-21 with 11:10 left.

After the Olympians punted on the ensuing possession, the North offense started driving. With the ball at the 22-yard line, Huffman ran for five yards. The drive stalled from there after a couple penalties were called, which brought out Carter Ward for the 40-yard field goal to cut it to 28-24 with 9:21 remaining.

North had another chance when East was forced to punt. Huffman ran the ball down the left side for 35 yards and tackled at the 2, but a holding penalty was called to negate the play. It didn’t matter as Castetter caught the 39-yard touchdown pass from Hammons to give the Bull Dogs their first lead of the game 31-28 with 6:46 remaining.

"We’re heartbroken right now because our kids fought so hard to get back into the game after digging quite a hole," North coach Tim Bless said.