Seeking a Bounce-Back: Olympians look to rebound from first losing season since 2002

A few long streaks came to an end for Columbus East football last fall.

The Olympians saw their 17-year Hoosier Hills Conference title streak and 98-game conference winning streak ended. Their 4-6 record marked an end to an 18-year streak of winning seasons.

East is looking to put all of that behind it this year, the second as head coach for Eddie Vogel, who faced the unenviable task of replacing Hall of Famer Bob Gaddis last season.

“We just feel like the important thing is stacking good practices on top of each other,” Vogel said. “I think these guys understand during the week what it takes to win on Friday nights. We don’t want to have the kind of season we had last year, so I think these guys are pretty hungry. We want to get better. Our guys have goals. We want to win our first two games and win conference again and really get East football back to where it was.”

In that regard, Vogel feels the Olympians had a productive offseason.

“We have a few new guys out for football this year, which I hope can help us,” Vogel said. “This summer, I thought we looked pretty good. We went up and scrimmaged New Pal and scrimmaged Bloomington South, and we competed well in both of those scrimmages.”

While East was largely inexperienced last year, that won’t be the case this season. The Olympians return five starters on offense and eight on defense.

Senior Ethan Duncan had a modest first year as the starting quarterback. Duncan completed 48 of 94 passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns and carried 151 times for 699 yards and five scores.

“Ethan last year playing quarterback really was predominantly a runner, and we’re going to lean on that again this year,” Vogel said. “He had a pretty good offseason, and he’s thrown the ball better this summer and here in fall camp, and I think he’s taken more of a leadership role and we’re going to need that from him.”

Senior Javeon Smith, who carried 55 times for 239 yards and two touchdowns in an injury-plagued season, and junior Tyler Weller, likely will see most of the carries. Senior fullback Chase Harrison carried 31 times for 113 yards and four scores, mostly in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Seniors Tommy Anderson (four catches, 73 yards, one touchdown) is the top returning wide receiver and will be joined by seniors Chase Zapfe and Devon Tekulve. Junior Blake Borkhardt returns at tight end after catching eight passes for 92 yards and one score.

Senior Jacob Guse is back at tackle, where he will be joined by junior Oliver Bush. Seniors Brennan Cowan and Jamall Starks step in at guard, and senior Conrad Eggers moves from tight end to center.

“We feel pretty good about our skill positions,” Vogel said. “Our offensive line, we have some guys we’ve kind of shuffled around and moved some new guys in, but they’re doing a good job of jelling this offseason.”

Senior Landin Jarvis, Eggers and Borkhardt all saw action at defensive end last season. Starks (5 1/2 sacks) and senior Tristan Davis return at defensive tackle.

Harrison (74 tackles) is back at middle linebacker, and Cowan and junior Caaden Gault return at outside linebacker. Junior Laird Stidham also could see action at linebacker.

Columbus East’s Devon Tekulve, left, and Brennan Cowan tackle Bedford North Lawrence’s Memphis Louden Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 at Columbus East.

The Republic file photo

Tommy Anderson and junior Kaeden Fields will step in at cornerback. Tekulve (four interceptions) returns at safety, where he will be joined by junior Nate Anderson.

“A lot of those guys that play defense are going to be offensive players and then play on defense, as well,” Vogel said. “So we’ll have to have some guys that are ironmen.”

Senior Nathaniel Hedrick, who converted 5 of 7 field goals and all 27 of his extra points, is back for his fourth year as the Olympians’ kicker. Junior Seth Lankey returns at punter.

“We have a lot of guys returning that do have experience,” Vogel said. “A lot of those guys kind of took their lumps and tried to figure out how to win football games, and that was kind of a process last year. They know what the expectations are and what it takes, and we’re going to lean on those guys with experience.”

East will be in a new sectional this year. Instead of being in a Class 5A sectional with powers New Palestine and Whiteland, the Olympians will be in a 5A sectional with Bloomington North, Bloomington South and Seymour.

“You can probably shake them up, and I think it’s just whoever’s playing best at the end of the year and on a roll,” Vogel said. “Success in the tournament is also whether you can keep key guys healthy and things like that.”

The 2022 Columbus East football schedule: 

Friday;Whiteland;7 p.m.

Aug. 26;at Columbus North;7 p.m.

Sept. 2;Seymour;7 p.m.

Sept. 9;Jennings County;7 p.m.

Sept. 16;at New Albany;7 p.m.

Sept. 23;at Floyd Central;7 p.m.

Sept. 30;Bloomington North;7 p.m.

Oct. 7;Jeffersonville;7 p.m.

Oct. 14;at Bedford North Lawrence;7 p.m.