If the Columbus North offensive line has learned one lesson this season, it’s never look back.
Performing for a team that always has prided itself on its running game, the Bull Dogs’ offensive front never has had a running back settle into his job.
First it was senior Jesse Tompkins, who was knocked off course by injury and illness. Then it was senior Jamaal Halliburton, who moved from the defensive secondary to tailback to help out. All Halliburton did was rush for 292 yards and five touchdowns in a victory against Perry Meridian.
Unfortunately, Halliburton suffered a high ankle sprain the next week, so it was sophomore Josh Holt’s turn, and Jonathan Byers started to pitch in, as well.
Then, in the first round of sectionals, Tompkins made it back from a separated shoulder to lead North to victory against Whiteland. But when the Bull Dogs showed up for their second-round win against Franklin Central, Tompkins was ill.
So it’s safe to say that North’s offensive linemen really aren’t sure who will be running behind them tonight when they travel to heavily favored Center Grove at 7 p.m.
“As an offensive line, our mental outlook all year has been that the team goes as we go,” said North offensive tackle Thomas Shoaf. “As long as we get the job done, the back’s job is easier.”
Bull Dogs offensive guard Luis Cambron said the linemen just have to concentrate on doing their job.
“Our backs all have different styles, but we have to make sure we do our assignments,” he said. “That means playing through the whistle whether it is Holt or Byers or whoever. If we take care of our job, it will be an easier job for them.”
It isn’t likely to be easier for anyone tonight as the Trojans (10-1) have allowed only 44 points in their past six games. Center Grove head coach Eric Moore said his team (10-1) has done a great job controlling the line of scrimmage, and he said establishing the run would be the key for both teams.
North’s running game would get a boost if quarterback Michael Vogel continues to make the big throws, as he has done through his team’s five-game winning streak.
“Michael has taken a ‘lunch-pail’ attitude with him every week,” Cambron said. “The offensive line needs to do the same.”
Vogel has hooked up for big plays with wide receivers Toriano Jackson and Taylor Summa. Hitting those two early could be a big factor in backing off Center Grove’s defense.
“They are more versatile on offense than we are,” Moore said of the Bull Dogs.
Cambron said it was important that his team just keeps making positive yardage on each play.
“We have to run the ball, and take a few shots down the field,” he said. “We need to stay on schedule.”
If the Bull Dogs could stay on schedule with Tompkins, then it would allow Holt and Halliburton to return to defensive duties, and certainly that side will have its hands full with a team that averaged more than 40 points a game.