By Mark Parker

COLUMBIA CITY — Coming off consecutive regular season winning records at 5-4 and first round sectional losses, the Columbia City Eagle football team is hoping that its depth can take it further in 2019.

That may depend on how the Eagles are able to replace a graduated offensive line.

“We are bringing back a lot of key pieces on the defensive side of the ball,” coach Brett Fox said, “and on the offensive side, we bring back a lot of the skill positions, but we have to replace four offensive linemen. We have some young guys that are willing to step up into those positions.

“We bring back a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, including our leading tackler in Tanner Martz and also first-team All-Northeast 8 Conference player Carter Smith — and a lot of players in other positions that have starting experience.”

The Eagles will need to replace defensive ends Drew Rethlake and Curtis Winebrenner. Fox hopes his depth will step up to fill those vacancies.

Experience at the skill positions on offense will give the Eagles options that they haven’t had in the last couple of seasons.

“In our skill positions on offense, we graduated Jacob Wigent at running back who was a three-year starter for us,” said Fox, “but we think we have two or three guys who are going to share that load for us in the backfield and we will be able to move Max Bedwell out into a wide-out position where we can get the ball into his hands.”

Bedwell will not split time at quarterback as he did in 2018.

“We are going to pretty much have running back by committee,” said Coach Fox. “Michael Nodine will probably get a lot of the carries, but he will also be playing on defense so we will need to get him some rest. We will have Max Bedwell to carry the ball also, and when we get into the red zone and need a bit more power, you might also see Tanner Martz get some carries. Michael Sievers has also gotten some carries there, so there is quite a bit of depth at that spot.”

Sophomore Gregory Bolt, who played at the quarterback spot last season as a freshman, will return to take a majority of the snaps. With a year’s experience under his belt, Bolt gives the Eagles both size and experience at the signal caller spot.

With the depth that the Eagles have, they will be able to move some players around to give skill position players an opportunity to get some rest during the contest, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensively, the Eagles will work from the same general scheme as last season.

“While we will look similar to last season, as we develop throughout the season and with the younger offensive line, we are looking forward to seeing their growth,” said Fox. “Its always hard when you graduate four seniors, but we have some guys coming back and hopefully we can establish the run and feed off that.

“Offensively, we may be actually a little better coming in than we were last year, with so many options at running back.“

The Eagles graduated a good portion of their offensive line, including Liam Hesting, Trevor Stetzel and Dalton Bell.

Columbia City will have a revamped schedule this season. When perennial season opener Warsaw decided to drop the Eagles on short notice, Columbia City was forced to find an opponent quickly. With few options, the Eagles had to choose between scheduling a team in Indianapolis or one in the northwest corner of the state. The Eagles chose to play Hammond Gavit. The Gavit Gladiators are coming off consecutive 4-6 seasons.

Another change in the Eagles’ season will come in game two when the Central Noble Cougars come to Columbia City to open the final season at Max Gandy Athletic Field, as construction is nearing completion at the new Columbia City High School. The Cougars take the place of Whitley County rival Whitko, which has left the Columbia City schedule.