City League Roundup: Coach Mike Bell can’t wait ‘to build something’ with East Tigers

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Mike Bell, a Centennial graduate and former Centennial assistant who is in his first season as the head coach at Columbus East, addresses his team after a 58-12 loss to Independence on Sept. 19.

Mike Bell is someone whom Centennial football coach Donte Goosby calls a “film rat” because of how much he studies players and concepts on websites such as hudl.com. 

A 1991 Centennial graduate, Bell was an assistant under Goosby the past three seasons, helping the Stars go 9-2 last year and reach the postseason for the first time. 

This fall, Bell has taken on a new project as the coach at East, which is in the neighborhood where he grew up. The Tigers went 6-4 last season for their first non-losing record since going 5-5 in 2012. 

“I’ve always desired to have a program and lead young men in the right direction,” Bell said. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity at East, and we’re going to build something here.” 

Joe Saffold Jr. also was an assistant at Centennial last fall and has joined Bell at East, with Walnut Ridge graduate and former Wisconsin player Rob Wheelwright also on Bell’s staff. 

Goosby is a 1997 Centennial graduate who was a senior in high school when he first met Bell. 

While Centennial was 0-2 after losing to Northland 20-6 on Sept. 26 and is not scheduled to play East this season, the Tigers opened with a 58-12 loss to Independence on Sept. 19, lost to Beechcroft 34-24 on Sept. 25 and travel Saturday, Oct. 3, to Linden-McKinley. 

The Tigers then will participate in the Division IV, Region 15 playoffs, marking just the second time that they’ll compete in the postseason, with the other coming in 1999. 

“(Bell) was a legend that upperclassmen always talked about,” Goosby said. “I got to know him better as the years passed from contact in various sporting events, so I knew that he knew football when I brought him on staff. I never anticipated learning as much about life as I did from him. He taught me a lot about dealing with people and dealing with players that I didn’t even know I needed to be taught. 

“Some of my observations of Mike as a football coach is that he’s a real student of the game and is very, very eager to learn. He never settles for not understanding a blocking scheme or passing concept. … All of those things are going to make him very successful at East High School.” 

Junior Xavion Dorsey was expected to be at quarterback before getting hurt during the preseason, leaving senior Isaac Ortiz and sophomore Tre Lindsey as options at the position entering the season. 

Senior Jeremiah Thomas, who scored both of East’s touchdowns in its opener, junior Malachi Williams (DB) and sophomore Ishmeal Spann-Bowers (WR/DB) are others who Bell is excited about. 

“I’ve got a lot of young kids who are going to have to learn to have a little bit of grit, take some lumps a little bit, but we’ll be OK,” Bell said. “Dealing with (the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic) and getting kids back out again, it’s tough, but everybody was dealt that hand in the City (League) and we have to keep fighting through it if we want to have a season.” 

76ers football team 

expects to be tested 

All 15 City football programs are planning to participate in the playoffs, which begin Oct. 9, with Independence, Mifflin, Northland, Walnut Ridge and Whetstone in Division II, Region 7; Briggs and West in Division II, Region 8; Beechcroft, Centennial, Eastmoor and South in Division III, Region 11; Linden and Marion-Franklin joining East in Region 15 and Africentric in Division VI, Region 23. 

Brackets for each region will be announced Thursday, Oct. 1. 

Independence last made the playoffs in 2017, when it reached a Region 11 semifinal and finished 10-2. 

This fall, 76ers coach Maurice Douglas expects his team to be battle-tested as it enters the postseason. 

After beating East in its opener, Independence lost to Marion-Franklin 34-22 on Sept. 26 and plays host to Walnut Ridge on Friday, Oct. 2. 

Both the Red Devils and the Scots made the playoffs last fall. 

“They didn’t do us any favors with (the schedule),” Douglas said. “We probably have the toughest schedule in the City, but that says that we’re pretty good, too, and they scheduled it that way for a reason. We’ve moved up to Division II, but I don’t know if there’s much difference when you’re talking about Division III. At the top there’s not much separation (between the best teams in Division II and III).” 

Independence could have one of the City’s top trios in senior quarterback and defensive back Orlando Jones, junior running back Jalin Sample and senior Shawn Munnerlyn, a Rutgers commit who sees time at wide receiver, tight end and outside linebacker. 

Jones missed all of last season with a foot injury but is a player whom Douglas calls “the engine of our team.” 

Seniors Vontez Brice (RB/WR/DB) and Adiel Cruz (OL/DL) are other standouts, said Douglas, who is in his 11th season. 

“As soon as they said, ‘Go,’ we started hitting hard in practice,” Munnerlyn said. 

Jones calls Independence’s approach “full speed every play.” 

Vikings volleyball 

team growing 

The Northland girls volleyball team has a new coach in Cheri Bowman, who previously coached at Africentric, Marion-Franklin and Columbus School for Girls. 

She also was to have been the Vikings’ boys volleyball coach last spring before the spring sports season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Before facing Whetstone on Sept. 30, Northland was 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the City-North Division. City volleyball programs are playing each team in their division twice through the end of the regular season Oct. 28, with a City tournament to follow. 

Along with Northland and Whetstone, the City-North includes Beechcroft, Centennial, International, Linden and Mifflin. 

Africentric, Briggs, Eastmoor Academy, Independence, Marion-Franklin, South, Walnut Ridge and West all have programs in the City-South. 

“(We have a) very young (team),” Bowman said. “It’s a rebuilding class, which was actually what (athletics director) Mario (Bowles) had told me, so we’re just trying to build on their strengths and getting them to play aggressively. They were senior-loaded last year.” 

Seniors Ma’kiyah Barnett-Woods (outside hitter), Yaismely Bedie (outside hitter/middle hitter), Leila Suarez-Reid (setter) and Mubita Walden (setter) and juniors Kylah Carter (outside hitter) and Sky Cole (defensive specialist) are the top players. Sophomores Unique Benton (setter) and Nikita Lama-Sherpa (defensive specialist) are others in the program. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek