Midway through the second half of Saturday night’s Columbus North Sectional final, Columbus East had tied the game and had all the momentum on its side.
With one big swing of his powerful left leg, Brad Shaw gave it right back to the Bull Dogs.
Shaw took a cross from Robbie Hughes and powered a one-touch rocket past East keeper JB Baxter to give North the lead for good. The Class 2A No. 6 Bull Dogs later added an own goal and claimed a 3-1 victory for their sixth consecutive sectional title.
“It starts with good defensive pressure, which we were kind of lacking the first half,” said North senior Reid Wilson, who had two assists. “Then, we picked it up once they scored the goal.”
The Bull Dogs (12-1-4), who are ranked No. 12 in Region 5 by nscaa.com, will host the regional Thursday and Saturday at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex. They will face Richmond in Thursday’s semifinals.
“Our goal is to make another deep postseason run, and it’s always good to beat our crosstown rivals to do it,” Wilson said.
Saturday’s game started out much like the regular-season meeting between the two teams, with North striking for an early goal. Keaton Voegerl took a lead pass from Wilson and stuck one just inside the right post in the fifth minute to give the Bull Dogs a 1-0 lead.
After being outshot 8-4 in the first half, the Olympians (14-4-1) had several opportunities in the first 15 minutes of the second half. They broke through in the 48th minute.
After Colin Singer put a shot off the crossbar, North keeper Chase Francoeur stopped Cameron Layman’s follow attempt. But Mitch Tabler was there for another follow and put away the tying goal.
East had a couple chances to take the lead, but were turned away by Francoeur. Then came Shaw’s blast in the 57th minute.
The Bull Dogs’ final goal came in the 73rd minute when Wilson crossed a ball into the box that bounced off an Olympians defender and into the net.
“I got a good pass from Robbie Hughes and just played a ball in and got a little lucky off their mistake,” Wilson said. “It’s really the defensive pressure that helped us get that third goal.”
“As time went on, and they equalized, they did get a little bit of momentum,” North coach Andy Glover said. “But at the end of the day, the game is about putting the ball in the back of the net. We spend a ton of time in the attacking third working on finishing, and if I’m honest, I think the goals tonight were very calculated.”
East finished with a 17-14 shot advantage and put 10 shots on goal to North’s six. Francoeur recorded nine saves, and Baxter had four.
“I don’t know if East has had a team that’s played such a good game together and worked so hard for one another,” East coach Brad Barber said. “I have to be so proud of the guys from that standpoint. We came out on the wrong side of the scoreline, but there’s no doubt in my mind we played excellent soccer and deserved every opportunity we had.”