Ground Domination: Olympians roll to second straight victory

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Columbus East’s Caaden Gault celebrates after scoring a touchdown during a football game between Columbus East and New Albany at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

New Albany scored touchdowns on the first and last plays from scrimmage in Friday night’s Hoosier Hills Conference football battle.

Columbus East, however, was dominant throughout the entire middle of those polar bookends, and it led to a lopsided win. The Olympians’ 42-13 victory kept them in contention for the HHC title.

“We had great practices throughout the week,” said East senior running back Tyler Weller said. “We planned for the best football we could tonight.”

The Olympians (2-3, 2-1) outgained the Bulldogs 237-6 on the ground in the first half and had 20 first downs to New Albany’s two in the first two quarters in building a 35-6 halftime lead.

“We want to be a physical football team, and I challenge our guys in pregame,” East coach Eddie Vogel said. “Really, tonight and last week were products of having good practices during the week. I think we’ve improved.”

Weller finished with 20 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Kyson Villarreal added 92 yards on 15 carries and completed 10 of 15 passes for 136 yards and a score.

“We had a great week of practice, probably our best week of practice of the year,” Villarreal said. “Tyler and (Thomas) Houpey and all the guys ran the ball well, and it opened up the passing game and made it easier for me. Our O-line gave me protection tonight.”

“The offensive line was doing great tonight,” Weller added. “I found a bunch of holes, and I took them, and after I got tackled, I kept running my feet.”

The game began like it might be a shooutout. After the Olympians marched 80 yards in 16 plays, capped by a 1-yard sneak from Kyson Villarreal, the Bulldogs (1-4, 1-2) answered with a one-play, 65-yard bomb from Kenny Watson to Tavonte Johnson. But New Albany missed the extra point, and East held onto a lead it would not relinquish.

Both teams punted on their second possessions, but then the Olympians put together four consecutive scoring drives. Villarreal hit Keaton Lawson for 31 yards for a 14-3 lead after one quarter.

Weller ran 11 yards for a score, and Thomas Houpey went 6 yards to paydirt. Cam Herron’s first of two interceptions set up a 2-yard run by Weller, and the Olympians led 35-6 at halftime.

The Bulldogs looked like they might cut into the lead when they took the second half kickoff and drive inside the Olympians 1. But Nate Anderson recovered a fumble, and East drove 99 yards, with Weller taking it the final 8, to trigger a running clock for the rest of the game.

“I thought our guys played well in all phases of the game,” Vogel said. “We’ve been challenging them the last couple of weeks. We’ve not played well defensively, not well enought beat good teams. They’ve taken to heart the challenge that we have to get better on that side of the football at pursuing and tackling.”

Columbus East 42, New Albany 13

New Albany;6;0;0;7;—;13

Columbus East;14;21;7;0;—;42

CE—Caaden Gault 1 run (Skylar Bailey kick), 6:50.

NA—Tavonte Johnson 65 pass from Kenny Watson (kick failed), 6:49.

CE—Keaton Lawson 31 pass from Kyson Villarreal (Bailey kick), 1:47.

CE—Tyler Weller 11 run (Bailey kick), 8:20.

CE—Thomas Houpey 6 run (Bailey kick), 4:41

CE—Weller 2 run (Bailey kick), 1:17.

CE—Weller 8 run (Bailey kick), 2:24.

NA—Watson 7 run (Henry Dixon kick), :41.

Individual statistics

RUSHING — New Albany: Taylor Donovan 5-61, Kaiser Klay 8-25, Watson 7-6. Columbus East: Weller 20-137, Villarreal 15-92, Houpey 7-50, Brayden Everroad 7-14, Zach Foster 2-9, Gault 2-6.

PASSING — New Albany: Chase Loesch 4 for 8, 98 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception; Watson 2-7-81-1-2. Columbus East: Villarreal 10-15-136-2-0.

RECEIVING — New Albany: Johnson 1-65, Donovan 1-48, Gavin Rand 1-41, Chris Lampkins 2-22, Watson 1-3. Columbus East: Lawson 2-74, Jax Siegman 4-32, Jared Brooks 1-18, Cam Herron 3-12.