Home of the Bull Dogs - where 37 state championships have been won!
A new season of Columbus North football is set to begin, and coach Tim Bless is counting on speed, speed and more speed to help the Bull Dogs succeed in 2017.
With a team featuring players in key spots who can really run, Bless and his charges are looking to put together another strong season on the heels of a 9-2 effort in 2016.
“On offense, we’re really optimistic about our group of perimeter athletes,” the coach said, alluding to senior Cortez Bandy at tailback and a receiving corps that includes senior Jaylen Flemmons, senior Tristan Bailey, junior D’Andre Scruggs and sophomore Mitchel Collier. “With Trenton Kelley triggering things at quarterback, we feel like they are ready to excel.”
Bandy rushed for 268 yards and five touchdowns last season while in a support role for then-senior Mitchell Burton, a first-team all-state selection. Kelley thrived in leading last season’s JV to an 8-1 record and was the backup for then-senior Triston Perry on varsity. Flemmons was the team’s leading receiver with 38 catches for 465 yards and eight touchdowns. Bailey had 25 receptions for 309 yards and six TDs, while senior J.D. Harris provided eight catches for 171 yards and two scores when he came over from defense.
The offensive line is a work in progress. Senior Logan Abbott is a returning starter, but the rest of the group needs on-field varsity time. Seniors Gabe Hutton and Davin Greenlee as well as juniors Konner Stahl and Noah Algee appear set for big roles up front.
“The big question is how we will develop up front,” Bless said. “We return one starter and three of the five are seniors. We are not young, just inexperienced.”
Defensively, the perspective is similar. The secondary and linebackers bring experience, while the front four must gain some.
Harris and senior Damon Hunter Jr. return to the backfield, while senior Will Robbins shifts from linebacker to safety. Junior Langston Lunsford joins the group, and Flemmons will be added in five-back situations. Seniors Noah Earl, Brigham Kleinhenz and Andrew Chapman plus junior Tayran Wells key the linebacker corps.
Abbott, senior Nick Tungett and sophomores Montez Mitchell and Dalton Kirk will rotate on the interior line, while Collier and junior Will Redding are set as defensive ends.
Hunter made 76 stops last season and is the team’s top returning tackler. Earl made 67 tackles, while Chapman had 61, Kleinhenz tallied 55 and Harris made 28. Earl had 11 tackles for loss, while Chapman notched eight TFLs plus two sacks and Hunter had four TFLs.
Harris had a team-best five interceptions plus eight passes broken up, while Hunter had three picks plus four PBUs and Earl grabbed one opponent pass.
Chapman recovered three fumbles, and Kleinhenz recovered two fumbles.
Senior Drew Wilson is set to take over kicking and punting duties. Bless described him as an accurate kicker who will be steady on placements and proficient as a punter.
Bloomington South was the Conference Indiana champion in 2016, and Bless said the Panthers enter 2017 as the team to beat.
“They have a lot of talent back, and we along with Southport will be challenging,” he said. “The conference will be similar to last year.”
One other item of note pertains to Bless. He enters this season with a 113-79 record in 17 seasons with the Bull Dogs, just five wins shy of the all-time Columbus High/Columbus North mark of 118-79-10 set by Max Andress as coach from 1951-71.