Olympians hope to be two-dimensional in Duncan’s second year as starter

Over the past decade, Columbus East has been a run-first football team, but even the Olympian teams with the best rushing attacks threw the ball more than they did last season.

East ran the ball on 85 percent of its plays last year, throwing it less than 10 times a game. The Olympians are looking for more balance this year with senior Ethan Duncan in his second year under center.

“We’ve been really focusing on the throwing aspect of our offense this year since it lacked last year,” Duncan said. “That’s really coming along this year. We were one-dimensional last year, and kind of dampered us in games where they’d load the box up and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

That led to a 4-6 record, the first losing season in 18 years at East. But with most of their starters returning from that squad, Duncan and the Olympians are looking to turn things around this fall.

“Last year we were kind of scared, first year being on a varsity football field,” Duncan said. “But this year, we look a lot more comfortable. The offseason went great. We hit the weight room really hard this summer.”

Duncan wasn’t horrible throwing the ball last season, his first as the starting quarterback. He completed 48 of 94 passes for 51 percent. He threw three touchdowns, with only one interceptions.

“Since the end of last year, I’ve really been working on throwing,” Duncan said. “I want to get closer to 70 percent for my completion rate. It really helps our offense.”

Running, however, was Duncan’s primary option last season. He carried 151 times for 699 yards and five scores.

“He’s fast, and that’s why he’s back there,” East coach Eddie Vogel said. “We’re going to run the ball. He’s a home-run hitter for us if he can get loose. He’s grasped our offense much better and really knows where to go with the ball and is getting rid of it on time and not holding it, which has really been a big positive.”

Vogel said that especially was the case with Duncan in Friday’s scrimmage against Martinsville.

“I thought he threw ball much better, threw them on time,” Vogel said. “Even the balls that were incomplete, he put them in the right spot. He’s come a long way from last year being predominantly a runner. We kind of took our lumps a little bit, but he’s worked hard in the offseason. He knows where the ball has to go and is getting it out on time much better and as a result, we’re throwing better.”

Duncan was pleased with the scrimmage. He said the entire offense has gotten its timing down better from where the unit was when they met for practice Aug. 1.

“I thought we did a lot better than what people anticipated us to do,” Duncan said. “Our O-line looked phenomenal. We kind of struggled with them in the summer, but the last couple weeks, they’ve really got it down. Our receivers looked good. They’re starting to get the offense down, and the running backs and quarterbacks, it’s simple between us.”

Vogel said Duncan has taken on more of a leadership role this season.

“I think the thing that he had to realize, and he’s kind of taken it to heart, is that quarterbacks kind of emerge as leaders on football teams,” Vogel said. “He wasn’t really that for us all the time last year, and he knows that we need that out of him and he made some big strides in that department this summer and in the preseason camp.”

East opens the regular season Friday at home against Class 5A No. 6 Whiteland, a team that beat the Olympians twice last season. East has been moved out of that sectional this year, however, and is in a four-team sectional with Bloomington North, Bloomington South and Seymour.

“Our first two opponents, Whiteland and (Columbus) North, are always tough, and then Seymour this year is going to be pretty tough,” Duncan said. “But I think we can do really well. We can bring back conference, and we have a good sectional this year and have a really chance to go far.”