Putting together a full display of offensive power and lockdown defense Thursday night, the Columbus East boys soccer team dominated their match against Madison, defeating the Cubs 5-0.
On a night full of emotions, the Olympians controlled all 80 minutes to extend their winning streak to seven games on senior night.
“We are very lucky to have an experienced group,” East head coach Brad Barber said of his seniors. “They know our style of soccer will allow us to be better team. We have had some games where we felt like we came in as the favorites, and we have not allowed that to go to our head.”
The Olympians (9-2-2, 3-1-1) opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Antony Espinoza scored off an assist by Dustin Rodgers. Eight minutes before the end of the first half, senior Jayvon Thomas made a slick move behind his back off an Espinoza feed and sent a shot into the back of the net to extend the lead to 2-0.
Three minutes into the second half, senior Eli Newell put East up by three, scoring off a deflection right into front of Madison’s goal. A little over a minute later, Newell fed senior Justin Copas off a corner kick, sending a laser of a shot from the top left corner of the box past the goalkeeper.
The final goal would come in the 67th minute, with Jorge Nieto putting a shot in the net off an assist from Copas.
Outscoring opponents 18-1 over their past four matches, Newell felt the team is hitting its stride at the right moment.
“It gives us an extreme amount of confidence as we head into the postseason,” Newell said. “We know a lot of the teams we play in postseason. All the games before this don’t necessarily matter, and in the postseason we want to be playing our best soccer. We feel like that’s what we are doing right now.”
East outshot Madison 10-1. Zach Roberts had the only save for the Olympians.
With seven seniors on the team, it is evident a special bond has been created over the past four years. As the seniors were announced before the game, a favorite quote or memory of theirs was read aloud. Some were serious while others were team inside jokes.
Not every senior has had a smooth path through their playing days, though. Reagan Perkins dealt with four years of battling illnesses.
“The biggest thing I can take away is that all of my teammates helped me keep coming back,” Perkins said. “I’ve had pneumonia nine times since seventh grade year, and I’ve wound up in the hospital several times. Every time, my teammates have been extremely supportive and have helped me get back on the field.”
Perkins was ecstatic discussing his team’s recent play and noted that it needed to focus on the future and the path ahead.