OTH Game of the Week: Leo at Columbia City

It would take some twists and turns for anyone to clinch anything in the Northeast Eight Conference this week. That said, it makes sense that a top-end game in the league is at the forefront.

What could be better than a conference that isn’t decided until Week 9?

Leo at Columbia City is the Outside the Huddle Game of the Week.


Nothing and everything? The NE8 title can’t technically be won on Friday, but it sure could be lost.

A Leo loss eliminates it from the title conversation. A win keeps the Lions alive for a possible three-way tie.

A Columbia City loss means it will need to win in Week 9 against Norwell to get a tie for the conference title. A win for the Eagles means they will play the Knights next Friday for an outright NE8 title. So for the Eagles, just win. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it ends Leo’s regular season hopes.

That is a big place to be for both teams. Leo’s loss to Kokomo and the shutout loss to conference foe Norwell, all in the first three weeks, sent some people’s minds into a tailspin. But since, the defending NE8 champs have been scoring more every week while their defense has created more and more problems. Leo goes to Columbia City still in the thick of the NE8 race, something that has been mostly forgotten in the championship conversation.

Columbia City has often struggled in years past at this point in the season when finishing up against New Haven, East Noble, Leo and Norwell. The Eagles have not won more than four conference games since the NE8 became a thing in 2015, yet here they are at 5-0 this season. Yes, a title is a massive goal, but there is a lot to be happy about just by being in the thick of it this late.


There isn’t much good history here for Columbia City, which is just 1-7 all time against the Lions. During that time, Leo has outscored the Eagles 242-72 – an average of 30.25 points per game for the Lions versus just 9 points per game for the Eagles.

The last and only time Columbia City has beaten Leo was during the 2012 season in sectional play. That year, the Eagles took home a 14-7 win.

Things have been fairly even most seasons, even though Columbia City has never won the game between the two in the history of the NE8. In 2015, Leo won 35-0, which was the biggest margin of victory until 2021. The result was just 21-7 in 2020.

Last season, Leo romped 52-7in the biggest margin of victory in the series’ history. Most of the impact players from both sides of that game are gone. Current Eagles Colten Pieper, Justice Goree and Josh Arntz combined for 11 rushes for 41 yards while Ethan Sievers had 15 rushes for 77 yards himself and Stratton Fuller caught three passes for 32 yards and the lone Columbia City touchdown. While most of the Lions are, as mentioned, gone now, they did manage 520 yards of offense, including 466 on the ground.

Drew Baker is the top returner from that game, leading Leo with eight tackles in the win, while Alex Holcomb had 5.5 tackles.



Not many people can boast 17 tackles in a game, but Holcomb has done that in his quest to repeat as Leo’s leader in tackles. He had those 17 tackles just two weeks ago as a defensive monster against East Noble.

Holcomb is the guy that you want to run away from if you are an opponent. If you go near him, if he gets a hand on you, there is a pretty good chance that you are going down to the turf. As run heavy as Columbia City is, it is going to need to know where Holcomb is lined up defensively at all times.

His seven tackles last week seem pedestrian by Alex Holcomb numbers and that is saying something.


Speaking of defenders, it is only fair to mention one from the Eagles. While they’ve gotten love for what they have done through seven weeks, it is not enough to show how good their defense is. Chacon has been a solid and consistent contributor to that cause. He leads Columbia City with 45 tackles and is a presence every week.

The offense has been clicking, so has the defense, but Chacon may be the unsung hero in the entire NE8 so far this season, which is wild considering he leads a team in tackles that is unbeaten in conference and in the thick of title talk.


LEO: Be ready for anything

Columbia City does some unorthodox things, just ask New Haven and its inability to recover three onside kick tries by the Eagles. If there is anything that will benefit Leo here, it is Jason Doerffler on the sidelines as he’s certainly had to handle a wide variety of different styles in his past in the SAC.

The Eagles are going to do everything they can to win this game. They will mix up what they do to keep Leo guessing. It means that Leo is going to have to be the sharpest it has been this season. When Leo encountered Norwell, it was ready for a run heavy game and the Knights changed it up on them. Columbia City could pull something similar.

It means that Leo will need to be aware of how to use some of their best Swiss Army knife-type players to their best potential. A guy like Kamden Zeisloft, who led the Lions in tackles in last Friday’s win, will be important. Zeisloft, Brock Schott, Aiden Furnish, Ethan Crawford and some others could really be important in being ready for a lot of changes and being able to handle them as well.

COLUMBIA CITY: Make Leo’s offense think too much

Columbia City’s defense is menacing; it is 13th in the state in defensive average, allowing just 8.7 points per game. That is also the second-best defensive average in Class 4A behind Kokomo, a team that gave up just over 4.5 points more than its defensive average to Leo in Week 1. Survey says: Columbia City could be in line to do the same thing.

So can the Lions throw it? Should they try to grind it out on the ground like last year? Heavy defensive sets, changing looks along the way will be key for Columbia City. Don’t get too comfortable defensively, make sure that Leo always has to second guess every play call.

The team has just five interceptions with Stratton Fuller placing three of those, but they average 27.6 yards per interception return. The Eagles have also recovered 11 fumbles this season.

LEO: Unleash Brock Scott any way you can

After a three-sack game last week, Brock Schott has shown he can be just as valuable on defense as he is on offense. In fairness, we should have known that about Schott as he came into the 2022 season as one of the guys with the best breakout potential.

He has held up his end, making plays defensively because of his length and underrated speed, whether it is piling on the sacks or even recovering a fumble for a touchdown. Schott’s head is in the game really well and he can make a lot of things happen for Leo.

That said, do not underestimate how well he helps this offense tick and how much he can do that on Friday. He is a big-time pass catching target for Kylar Decker and has made some big things happen there too. When teams key on him and try to take him away from the passing game, it has opened up his teammates more too, keeping the Lions flowing.

Whatever Brock Schott is doing Friday, it is going to matter to Leo’s hopes of winning.

COLUMBIA CITY: Make them stop the run

See above about the Eagles’ defense? Well the offense is menacing too, scoring a state 44th best 38.29 points per game, giving the Eagles the 22nd best average margin of victory in Indiana in 2022.

While the passing game works just fine for the Eagles, the run game has been superb. Going for over 292 yards per game on the ground, seven guys have double-digit rushes led by 107 of Justice Goree, who also leads the Eagles in yardage with 508 yards and seven touchdowns. But theplay of Goree isn’t the only thing that Columbia City has as James Getts has been substantially hard to confine, averaging 8.9 yards per carry.


Check back for Blitz’s picks to find out!

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