SEYMOUR — Columbus East won only two boys soccer sectional titles in the school’s first 42 years of existence.
Now, the Olympians have won two more in the past three years.
Class 3A No. 19 East used a smothering defense and an opportunistic offense to claim a 3-0 win against Columbus North in the Seymour Sectional final, avenging a 4-2 early-season loss to the Bull Dogs.
“With all the hard work we put in over the season, it feels good to come out on top in the sectional,” East senior Justin Copas said.
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The Olympians (13-2-4) advance to play Bloomington South in the Seymour Regional semifinals at noon Saturday. The regional championship will be at 7 p.m. Saturday.
North (13-6-1) outshot East 18-3, but the Olympians put seven shots on goal to only five for the Bull Dogs.
“We capitalized on our opportunities,” East coach Brad Barber said. “I think both teams had opportunities, but our attack was clinical in their finishing.”
The first one of those came in the 20th minute. Dustin Rodgers took a pass from Jayvon Thomas and beat North keeper Noah Kestler.
Rodgers said the Olympians had worked on that play in practice.
“We knew what they were doing in their defensive strategies,” Rodgers said.
“We learned that they were going to step high with their two outsides and leave the middle exposed and the outsides exposed, so we figured that if we transitioned fast, we’ll be able to score.”
It looked as though East, which had a strong wind at its back in the first half, would take a 1-0 lead into halftime. But the Olympians struck again in the final minute of the half.
East goalkeeper Zach Roberts sent a free kick to Eli Newell along the right side. Newell then passed the ball ahead to Copas, who sent in the second goal.
“It was a really big goal to get the momentum going in the second half,” Copas said. “It really got their heads down, I feel like.”
The Bull Dogs mounted some challenges in the second half. Roberts stopped a point-blank shot from Alex McGill in the 47th minute. McGill, who scored four goals in Thursday’s 5-0 semifinal win against Seymour, then put one off the post in the 50th minute and missed an open net in the 52nd minute.
The Olympians were able to keep the Bull Dogs from threatening the rest of the way.
“Going into halftime, I figured we were bound to have moments in the second half, which we did,” North coach Andy Glover said. “We just couldn’t finish today. They were better than us in front and behind the (18-yard line) today. East played well, they worked hard and they executed their game plan nicely. Our disappointment is East’s celebration, and we’ll look to rebuild next year.”
East’s Jorge Nieto added a goal on a free kick in the 79th minute to put it away.
Roberts finished with five saves for the Olympians. Kestler had four saves for the Bull Dogs.
“I felt like today was a comprehensive win,” Barber said. “I think we won in all facets of the game — transition, attack, defense. We knew we did not play our best game in the first match, and we came out going against the wind and playing our style of soccer. When we play our style of soccer with the playmakers we have, we’re a very tough team to beat.”