Time To Prepare / North will have two bye weeks; East draws rematch with Whiteland

If there’s a silver lining in the fact the Columbus North will almost assuredly play perhaps the top team ever to play high school football in Indiana, it’s that the Bull Dogs will have three weeks to prepare for them.

Only three teams are in Class 6A, Sectional 8, and North drew the bye. Class 6A and 5A schools already have one bye week on Oct. 22 to begin the postseason, and the Bull Dogs will have a second bye on Oct. 29.

“Uncharted territory,” North coach Tim Bless said following Sunday’s tournament draw. “I don’t really know what that looks like, but here we go. Last season, we had two different bye weeks, so it’s kind of similar, but not two straight weeks without a football game.”

The Bull Dogs (5-3) will be on the road for the sectional final Nov. 5 against the winner of the Center Grove at Franklin Central game. The defending state champion Trojans are 8-0, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 6A and are ranked in the top 10 in the nation in multiple polls.

“I would say at the end of the day, it gives us two weeks to prepare for one of the best teams in the history of Indiana High School football,” Bless said. “No offense to coach (Jayson) West and Franklin Central, but I think it’s inevitable. It allows us time to work on our program, so it will be something we can turn into a positive.”

The extra bye week also will allow a few North players to recover from minor injuries.

“It’s a time we can definitely get healthy,” Bless said. “We can focus on us. The tournament time is also a fun time where the starters will still get reps, but the younger guys will get reps, as well. We do what we call ‘Futures scrimmages,’ where we go 11-on-11 and let the younger guys get better.”

Meanwhile, in Class 5A, Columbus East (3-5) will play at Whiteland (4-3) Oct. 29 in the semifinals of Sectional 14.

“We’ve been on the road six weeks and at home four, so why not another road game?” East coach Eddie Vogel said.

New Palestine will host Franklin in the other semifinal. If the Olympians beat Whiteland, they would host New Palestine or visit Franklin in the sectional final.

The Olympians opened the season at Whiteland, with the Warriors winning 28-7 in Vogel’s East head coaching debut.

“I felt like that first time we played Whiteland, we left points on the board,” Vogel said. “I think both teams, with us playing in the regular season, are pretty familiar with each other. They know what we’re going to do, and I think we know what they’re going to do. It’s just who can execute the best. I have a lot of respect for (Whiteland coach) Darrin Fisher. They have a good program there.”

Jennings County (1-7) will host 4A No. 7 Mooresville (6-2) in the opening round on Oct. 22. Brown County (3-5) will visit Pike Central (1-5) in a first-round 3A game on the same night.

Edinburgh (5-3) will visit Class A No. 1 Indianapolis Lutheran (8-0) in a first-round game on Oct. 22. In a separate Class A sectional, South Decatur (1-5) will host North Decatur (3-4) on Oct. 22.

All sectional finals are Nov. 5. The regional round is Nov. 12, with semistate action Nov. 19. The state finals are Nov. 26-27 at Lucas Oil Stadium.