SEYMOUR — Seven weeks had passed since Columbus East opened the boys soccer season with a 1-0 loss to Floyd Central.
That match effectively decided the Hoosier Hills Conference championship, but the Olympians had a chance for revenge in the postseason. Class 3A No. 19 East took full advantage of that opportunity by shocking the 3A No. 18 Highlanders 3-1 on Monday in the opening round of the Seymour Sectional.
“We had some good tactics going into the game,” East coach Brad Barber said. “The boys worked hard at the scouting report to get ready for this match, and because of that, I thought it created a number of goal-scoring opportunities for us. While they may have outshot us on the scoreboard, I think the quality chances that we created were better.”
The Olympians (11-2-4) move on to face Jennings County in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Columbus North plays New Albany, and Seymour faces Jeffersonville in the first round today, with those winners meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The sectional final is at 2 p.m. Saturday.
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Floyd Central outshot East 19-9, putting nine shots on goal to five for the Olympians.
“We did a lot of pregame film sessions,” East senior Dustin Rodgers said. “We learned all of their tactics. We figured out what would shut them down best.”
East goalkeeper Zach Roberts had a lot to do with that. The sophomore recorded seven saves.
One of Roberts’ saves was a diving stop on a point-blank shot in the 27th minute that allowed the Olympians to maintain a 2-0 lead.
“The main point to any save is being on your toes and looking at their knees and their eyes,” Roberts said. “Prediction is a part of it, but gut instinct is most of it. You just have to know where it’s going.”
The Highlanders’ lone goal came on a penalty kick. Daniel Flores converted following a handball in the box in the 52nd minute.
Outside of that, Roberts was a brick wall.
“He had a phenomenal match,” Barber said. “There were a number of goal-scoring opportunities where he came up big. In my eyes, he’s maybe the man of the match.”
East had another big save from defender Ricky Sanchez when he cleared the ball off the goal line in the sixth minute. Two minutes later, the Olympians got on the board when Eli Newell crossed a ball in front of the goal and Rodgers beat Floyd Central keeper Dane Parker to the ball and put it in.
East added to its lead in the 21st minute when Antony Espinosa took a pass from Jorge Nieto and lofted a shot that bounced over Parker’s head and into the goal. Justin Copas added a goal on a free kick in the 37th minute to give the Olympians a 3-0 halftime lead.
“I think that putting the three goals in at the beginning of the game was very effective,” Rodgers said. “It got their heads down very quickly. They came out with a little bit of fire in the second half, but I feel like those three goals shut them down.”
Espinosa started in place of senior Jayvon Thomas, the team’s second-leading scorer. Thomas was issued a red card in Saturday’s regular-season finale against Jeffersonville and had to sit out Monday.
Still, East persevered.
“This team continues to respond well to any adversity thrown their way,” Barber said. “That was a total team effort. If one player was not playing their best, there’s other guys to pick up the slack.”