Olympians blank Panthers, advance to final

SEYMOUR — Playing its third game in five days, Columbus East didn’t have the spring in its step that it had in Monday’s night’s first-round Seymour Sectional upset of Class 3A No. 18 Floyd Central.

Still, the 3A No. 19 Olympians were in control almost the entire way in Wednesday’s semifinal against Jennings County. East scored twice in each half to post a 4-0 victory.

“I think a lot of credit goes to our speed and agility coach, Buster Copas,” East head coach Brad Barber said. “We had three games in five days, and even when we were not playing well, we had the fitness level and the drive to still get the win. I think coach Buster does a lot of great things with our players, and he deserved a lot of credit for the result today, even when we’re not playing our best.”

The Olympians (12-2-4) advance to play Columbus North in the sectional final at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Bull Dogs beat Seymour 5-0 in Wednesday’s nightcap.

East got on the board in the fifth minute when Jayvon Thomas put in a cross from Jorge Nieto.

“It was pretty big,” Thomas said. “It definitely helped my confidence going forward and made me want to get another one.”

It looked like the Panthers (2-16) had tied the game two minutes later when Dylan Boswell put one in the net. However, the goal was nullified by an offsides call.

After that, it was all Olympians.

“It would have fired us up, and we would have been able to rally there for a little bit,” Jennings coach Brad Morris said. “The level of competition we see in the (Hoosier Hills Conference), it’s been kind of deflating to us sometimes when we come out without goals. Even though they took (the goal) off, it was good to see that we had a scoring opportunity.”

The lead stayed 1-0 until the 32nd minute when Nieto took a pass from Ricky Sanchez and put one just under the crossbar from 25 yards out. East led 2-0 at halftime.

In the second half, Thomas scored his second goal off an assist from Sanchez in the 50th minute. Thomas had missed Monday’s game after receiving a red card in Saturday’s regular-season finale.

“It’s just good to be back and help my team get the win,” Thomas said. “I’m just glad I could do my part.”

Justin Copas finished off the scoring for the Olympians off an assist from Nieto in the 58th minute.

East outshot Jennings 32-1, putting 15 shots on goal. Chance Newkirk recorded 11 saves for the Panthers.

“I feel like at first, we didn’t play as hard and as well as we should have, but then coach (Barber) had a motivational speech at halftime,” Sanchez said. “He was telling us that we are a better team than how we are playing and that we should go hard every game like it’s our last game and to play with passion.”

Zach Roberts played the first 69 minutes in goal for the Olympians and stopped Jennings’ only shot attempt. Ben Romig was in goal for the final 11 minutes.

East had beaten the Panthers 5-0 in regular season, scoring all five goals in the first half of that game.

“To be 2-0 at halftime was a lot more respectable, and I was happy with that,” Morris said. “We kind of came out tonight with a defensive mentality to try and limit that as much as possible, but they were too good.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.