When Levi Copas reentered Wednesday night’s sectional semifinal with about 10 minutes remaining, Columbus East assistant coach Josh Gonsior had a message.
“The last 10 minutes is yours,” Gonsior told Copas. “If you want to make an impact, this is the time to do it.”
Copas did exactly that. He took a cross from fellow senior Andrew Thomasson and scored in the 78th minute to give the Olympians a 1-0 victory and their first win against Columbus North in 10 years.
“This was the goal since freshman year,” Thomasson said. “North has always been the top dog in Columbus for six or seven years or before I was even born. So being the senior class to finally beat them, it means a lot.”
The win puts East (11-4-1) in the sectional final against (Seymour/Madison) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex. The Bull Dogs (7-7-3) saw their sectional title streak end at eight.
North outshot the Olympians 6-2 in the first half, but East began creating dangerous chances in the second half. Caleb Glass sent a shot just wide in the 64th minute, North goalkeeper Ty Bentham made a sliding stop on a close-ranger shot by Thomasson in the 68th minute and Bentham picked up a loose ball in front of the goal in the 74th minute.
The Olympians finally connected in the final three minutes. Thomasson dribbled down the left side and crossed the ball in front of the goal to a waiting Copas, who put it away.
“The whole game was just a battle, and then about the 10-minute mark, we turned it up, and we had a couple chances,” Thomasson said. “Coach (Brad Barber) kept on saying, ‘It will come. It will come. Just keep working,’ and it worked out. I beat the man down the line and knew I was in the right spot, and (Copas) had a good finish.”
“There were a couple defenders on him, and it kind of blocked my view a little bit,” Copas said. “But I knew it was coming across once he got around the corner. We practice that several times during the season.”
Barber knew it was only a matter of time until his team found the net.
“We preach being an 80-minute team, and it was true in this game,” Barber said. “Some of the momentum grew in our favor the longer the game wore on.”
Both teams finished with 10 shots, and East put seven shots on goal to four for the Bull Dogs. North’s Ty Bentham recorded six saves, while the Olympians’ Andy Davidson posted four saves.
The Bull Dogs’ closest scoring opportunity came when Alex McGill put one just over the crossbar in the eighth minute.
“I thought our backs played outstanding throughout the game, negating many opportunities that they had,” Barber said. “All the way across the back line, we defended as 11, but those backs deserve a lot of credit.”
“It is tough,” North coach Glover said. “But I think Brad would say the same thing, that to me, the game was stale. It doesn’t take away from their accomplishment, but I don’t think either team gave their best performance tonight. But at the end of the day, that’s not what matters; it’s the goal that they scored. I know that game means a lot to both teams, and they earned a good victory tonight.”
East’s win was only its fourth in school history against North, and just the third in the past 29 years. The Olympians last beat the Bull Dogs in the 2004 and 2005 sectional tournaments.
“I spent a long time working for this,” Copas said. “We all knew what we wanted to do and came out and got it done.”