Branching Out / Trio of North athletes enjoying success in first year of football

Columbus North is one win away from a Conference Indiana football championship, and the Bull Dogs are in that position thanks to the help of three newcomers who had limited experience in the sport.

Junior Cooper Horn and seniors Carson Dibble and Trent Bodart have been basketball players at North, and this fall, all three are starters for a football team that is 4-3 and can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a win Friday at Bloomington North.

“We’re looking for athletes,” North coach Tim Bless said. “We definitely made a conscious effort in the offseason to target some kids that we would love to play football. We have all these kids in weight training class with coach (Jordan) Sharp and I, and they work hard in the weight room. We have already preexisting relationships with them as their teacher, and just trying to talk to them about the merit of playing football and that it could potentially help them in their other sports, and they could certainly help us and have a blast as they do it.”

So far, the trio is doing just that.

“The practices are definitely a grind, but being out there on Friday nights with your brothers, there’s nothing that beats it,” said Horn, a wide receiver and kicker.

“The atmosphere is much better compared to basketball and baseball,” added Bodart, a cornerback. “You look around, and you see so many more fans here. Getting your name announced out of the tunnel is unmatchable.”

Bodart has played JV basketball for the Bull Dogs, but does not plan to play that sport this year. His primary sport is baseball.

Dibble split time between the JV and varsity basketball teams last season and figures to play a prominent role this winter.

“It’s a lot more physical,” Dibble said. “I’m enjoying it. It’s helped me on the basketball court with being more physical, but the atmosphere is unmatched.”

Dibble, an outside linebacker, played football in eighth grade. He is the only one of the three to have played football in middle school.

“It’s my senior year, so I was like, ‘Why not?’” Dibble said. “I kind of missed it the past couple years and kind of regret not playing.”

Horn and Bodart, meanwhile, wanted to improve their strength and physicality.

“I came to play football because it makes me more physical on the basketball court, and I just wanted to come out here and have fun and be stress free and just be able to enjoy myself,” Horn said.

“I honestly just needed to get bigger in the weight room for baseball, and I just needed to improve my strength and my speed and I thought football would be a great way to do that,” Bodart added.

Horn has had the biggest success of the three, having caught 14 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns. He also has converted 13 of 14 extra points and averaged 34.5 yards on six punts, but has given up kicking and punting duties the past couple of weeks because of a quad injury.

Horn’s father Will played receiver and kicker at North and at Indiana University.

“He’s tried to keep me away from it just because he went through rough injuries, and he dealt with a lot of injuries throughout his career like broken ribs and stuff,” Cooper said. “He felt like it limited him from other sports. He’s always encouraged me on the basketball court, but (football) was his sport first, so he was able to give me some good teaching.”

Dibble, who started out at defensive back before being moved to linebacker, ranks fourth on the team with 44 tackles. Bodart’s biggest moment this season came when he returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown in a win against Southport.

“It’s been awesome,” Bodart said. “All of the coaches have taught me pretty well, and I basically know my job and know what to do every day.”

Bless noted that Horn, Dibble and Bodart worked out with the team in the offseason and didn’t just show up when practice started in August.

“These three are competitive kids that are great athletes and quickly earned a role,” Bless said. “To their credit, they got in the offseason. They were with us during that spring limited-contact window and showed what they could do while they were learning the game of football, while they were learning our system. All three of them had great summers and earned their jobs in preseason camp.”

Bless is hoping the success of the newcomers will encourage other athletes who may play only one sport to give football a try, as well.

“Football is a beautiful sport because it takes all shapes and sizes,” Bless said. “But if you can run and jump, or you’re big and strong, we’re going to find a role for you.”