To call Columbus East’s defense a “bend-but-don’t-break” unit on Friday night would be a massive understatement.
The Olympians allowed New Albany to drive inside its 15-yard line on all four of the Bulldogs’ first-half possessions, but surrendered only one score and went onto post a 48-14 Hoosier Hills Conference victory.
“When the ball got down in red zone, we played with a lot more urgency,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “Obviously, we’d like to do better between the 20s, but when it mattered, we came through.”
The Olympians (3-2, 2-0) were able to run the ball with much success. Mark McDonald carried 18 times for 193 yards and four touchdowns to lead East to a 367-yard rushing night. Quarterback Malachi Parks added nine carries for 99 yards and a score.
“I thought our offensive line did a nice job up front,” Gaddis said. “They kind of loaded the box up, but our offensive line did a nice job of adjusting that. We didn’t need to pass, but I was happy that we were able to make some plays in the passing game in the second half.”
New Albany’s first venture into the red zone came on its first possession. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2) reached the Olympians 6-yard line before turning the ball over on downs on the 15th play of the drive.
East then marched 94 yards in 12 plays for its first score. McDonald took it the final three to give the Olympians the early lead.
East looked like it would stop New Albany again deep in its own territory on the second possession when they forced a fumble and a 9-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 6. But on fourth-and-goal from the 15, Derell Simmons scrambled and found DeJon Winburn in the end zone, and the Bulldogs drew even at 7-7.
The Olympians needed only three plays to go 56 yards and regain the lead. McDonald went around the left side for a 34-yard touchdown.
New Albany then drove to the East 14 before the Olympians came up with stops on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. East then went 85 yards in seven plays, with Parks keeping in for a 5-yard score.
The Bulldogs looked like they would cut into the lead in the final minute of the first half, but once again, the Olympian defense stiffened. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, they threw Myles Johnson for a 1-yard loss and held onto a 21-7 halftime advantage.
East gave itself the breathing room it needed on the opening drive of the second half. Facing third-and-8 at its own 46, Parks hit Charles Claycamp on a screen pass, and Claycamp took it to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown, and the Olympians led 28-7.
“That was a big play because if we turn the ball over there, they had moved the ball on us, so we needed another score there.”
New Albany would venture into the red zone one more time, getting as far as the 6, but again, East turned the Bulldogs over on downs. Parks then hit Xander Brotzman for 21 yards and Crase Bergman for 60 to set up a McDonald 1-yard touchdown run and a 35-7 lead.
McDonald added a fourth score after his long punt return set up a 24-yard touchdown. The Bulldogs added a score on a 9-yard keeper by Simmons, but the Olympians put on the finishing touches when Tyrell Bowers intercepted a Simmons pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.