When Tim Bless and Eddie Vogel were playing high school football in the late 1980s, teams didn’t get together to begin practice for the fall season until August.
The first official practice for football in Indiana still is the first Monday in August, but these days, teams can work out together throughout much of the offseason, including the summer months.
“Football is different than what it used to be,” said Bless, who enters his 22nd year as coach at Columbus North. “Pretty much every team has their playbook installed in the summer. We had a very productive 21 summer workouts. We did strength, we did conditioning and speed development and we did football, so coming in Day 1 isn’t like the Day 1 of old.”
Day 1 was Monday for the Bull Dogs and Columbus East.
“We’ve been working pretty hard all summer,” said new East coach Eddie Vogel said. “Back when I played, there wasn’t all this summer stuff. So I think that first day of practice excitement is not what it used to be. But we’ve had a good summer, and I thought our guys came out here with some good excitement and got after it pretty well.”
Vogel has been an assistant under Hall-of-Fame coach Bob Gaddis the past 19 years, including the past 17 as defensive coordinator.
“I probably have paid more attention to the entire team moreso than what I have in the past,” Vogel said. “I’ve been concerned with how our defensive guys were playing and that kind of thing. Coach Gaddis obviously had a hold on the offensive side. We’re not where we need to be at this point now, but I like our guys’ attitude, and we’re going to continue getting better.”
Both North and East had a chance to get better on Monday. The Bull Dogs practiced for a couple hours in the late morning, and the Olympians were on the field for about an hour-and-a-half in the late afternoon.
“We did a lot of learning and had more mental reps than physical in the LGI room,” North senior cornerback Jaxson Scruggs said. “We went over what it means to be a Bull Dog, being a leader for the team, setting a good example for everybody and then on the field, we got a bunch of good reps.”
North did some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 scrimmaging, along with 1-on-1 skillwork, inside runs for linemen. The Bull Dogs also worked on special teams.
“I was pleased,” said senior Luke Hammons, who is entering his third year as North’s starting quarterback. “I love where we’re at because everyone had great this summer and we’re far ahead of where we need to be. We have to stay on schedule and keep on working.”
East worked on some of the same concepts and finished its practice with a series of 20- and 40-yard sprints.
“We ran a lot, but you have to work hard to get wins,” junior linebacker Chase Harrison said. “I think it went well. We lost a lot of starters, but we have a lot of kids that can step up. I think we’ll be fine.”
The Olympians are breaking in a new quarterback, but return senior running back Tryce Villareal.
“We need to work on a lot of things,” Villareal said. “We’re young on both sides of the ball. We’re looking pretty good, but we’re not looking as good as last year, but I think we’re going to step it up and go out there and win some games.”
“It was a good start,” senior guard-defensive tackle Josh Luedeke added. “I think we can do better, but it was a good first day. We have a lot of people here. We just need to keep showing up and put 100 percent in.”
East is coming off an 8-3 season and a Hoosier Hills Conference championship, while North went 6-3 and won the Conference Indiana title. Both teams fell to Center Grove in the sectional.
The Olympians moved back down to Class 5A this season after playing in 6A the past two years.
“We’re pretty young, but our older guys are slowly learning that they can set the tone for practice and are doing a pretty good job,” Vogel said. “That was one of our summer goals — we wanted to put in our base offense and defense, and with only having three starters on each side of the ball back, we really wanted to experiment a little bit and kind of figure out what the identity of this football team was going to be offensively and defensively.”
Both teams were able to practice Monday in relatively mild conditions for this time of year. The temperature did not get out of the 70s.
“I feel like we got off to a great start,” Bless said. “The Good Lord gave us a beautiful day. We had full attendance at practice, got all our forms in and got all that administrative stuff you have to deal with Day 1 and then were able to flip the switch and have an enthusiastic practice.
“Now, we kind of shift our focus to particular situations in football,” he added. “We’re not just putting the ball down and scrimmaging. We have the chains out, and we’re paying attention to situational football and just ramping up our football IQ from there.”