Editor’s note: The following is the first of a four-part series on Columbia City’s football team.
COLUMBIA CITY — A casual observer would look at the 2012 Columbia City football season and see a sub-500 team that somehow managed to qualify for the second round of the sectional playoffs.
Eagles fans know better than to judge last season that quickly.
Columbia City entered 2012 with plenty of talent and high aspirations. The Eagles were coming off a winning 2011 season that ended — as it had each of the five years before — with a sectional loss to Bishop Dwenger. Many key pieces remained from that team, including NCAA Division I-bound wide receiver Jared Murphy.
Unfortunately, the seemingly random, although inevitable occurrence of injuries plagued the 2012 Eagles. Several players in starting roles missed significate portions of the season due to broken bones, concussions or other afflictions.
In turn, the remaining seniors had to step up their leadership, and some underclassmen needed to rise up and fill those voids left in the line up.
Columbia City finished the 2012 regular season with a 4-5 record, while going 3-4 in the tough Northeast Hoosier Conference.
One particularly bright spot in the Eagles organization last year was Jared Murphy, an athlete selected by Miami University in Ohio to play Division I football in 2013. Murphy would be returning to CCHS for his senior year to resume his role as wide receiver, cornerback, and kick returner.
Significant amounts of talent resonated throughout the rest of the Eagles’ senior class. Garret Vandersaul, Buddy O’Dell, and Russell Hazelet would again play on both sides of the ball on the line. Tycri Smith would resume his position on the defensive line. Austin McCormick and Ryan Romanowski were set to play linebacker. Adam Neely would be taking handoffs at running back.
Throw in a head coach in Randy Hudgins who, heading into 2012, held a 20-14 record at CCHS, including a 10-2 campaign in 2010, and Columbia City’s future looked even brighter.
One area of change for the Eagles was at quarterback. With the departure of 2011’s signal caller, Connor Slavich, junior Travis Harbest would take the reigns on Columbia City’s offense.
“We had high expectations coming into the year,” said Hudgins. “This was the third class in a row that had success in seventh and eighth grade. Among them, we had a significant number of three-year starters. We expected a lot from them.”
For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Jan. 15 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition . For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage  and find us on facebook .