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INDIANAPOLIS — If you wanted to know the real story of Columbus North’s 1-0 state championship victory in 2A boys soccer on Saturday at IUPUI, you needed to walk around in the shoes of Warsaw forward Diego Lopez.
First, though, you would have to pull out all those Bull Dogs who had been in his shoes all day.
Lopez, the ridiculously talented leader of the Tigers’ offense, had to feel like he was playing with a boa constrictor around his neck.
Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
Warsaw head coach Scott Bauer said Lopez has the uncanny talent to “break ankles,” which means he can get a defender going right, when he needs to be going left. Lopez encountered something unusual, for him, on Saturday. When he had Chris Gorbett to his right, and he worked his magic to the left, McClain Goggin was there, or Mason Engel or Reid Wilson or William Bridgeman.
The championship definitely was won by a roster full of special athletes, but North’s coaching staff, led by head coach Andy Glover, deserves a huge nod for its strategy against one of the state’s most dangerous offensive players.
If it meant leaving one half of the field void of defenders, so be it. North’s strategy against Lopez was to attack, every minute, every second.
Early in the game, when it was 0-0, Warsaw plan was rather simple. Keep a heavy load of players back to defend, and try to get the ball down the field to Lopez, who usually can beat a couple of players. He must have thought North was sneaking player into the game off the bench. His only option was to give up the ball.
With Lopez (16 goals) unable to function, it also took forward Nathan Kolbe (20 goals) out of the game. Kolbe was Warsaw’s finisher, the guy who cleaned up after Lopez would leave bodies in his wake. Kolbe was forced to set himself up on Saturday, and it was a lot harder work.
“Their coach (Bauer) talked about their one-two punch,” Glover said. “But our three-through-11 punch knocked them out.”
“We came into the game knowing that Lopez had great one-on-one skill,” said Gorbett, a senior. “But we trust one another on defense. We have four senior backs.”
Gorbett, Goggin, Engel and Reid Wilson quietly put together an amazing North defensive run.
Then there was the keeper, senior Chase Francoeur. If there was an MVP award, he would have received it. Twenty-three minutes into the game, Warsaw’s TJ Hofer slipped into the box with a free kick sailing toward him. Hofer went up high to put a header on net.
But before the ball could strike his noggin, the 6-foot-3 Francoeur sailed high above him to grab the ball. At least four more times, Francoeur took a chance to beat a Warsaw player to the ball. He won each battle.
“They were getting frustrated because they couldn’t get as high as me,” Francoeur said after receiving his championship medal. “But if you mess up on something like that, they are going to score.”
North took its calculated chances, and won a title. They were bold, and aggressive, and champions.
With less than a minute left, Lopez stood alone at North’s end of the field. The ball was in Warsaw’s end as North attacked until the final horn.
Lopez walked off, head down.
It told the story.
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