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Adversity only made the Columbus North boys soccer team play better.
The Bull Dogs, the state’s top-ranked team, held off Columbus East 3-0, despite playing a man down for the final 42 minutes after Ethan Smith received his second yellow card. North also was without head coach Andy Glover, who was issued a red card, for the final 66 minutes.
It didn’t matter.
North scored twice in the final 8:01 of the first half and added a late goal for the solid victory.
East came out as the aggressor and out-shot the Bull Dogs over the first 10 minutes.
“We came out a little soft, and our coaches sat us down and made sure that we really pressured them hard,” said senior Parker Hirsch, who scored the Bull Dogs’ final two goals. “Once we kind of got everything straight, we started pressuring them, and the game turned in our favor.”
When limited to 10 players, North played a more controlled possession game in the second half.
“I wish we’d play like that with 11,” said North assistant coach Chris Morelock. “We absolutely dominated that second half down a man. We played much better with 10 the second half than we did the first half with 11.”
The Bull Dogs broke through with the game’s first goal in the 32nd minute on a corner kick from Riley Belding that was headed into the net by Andre Abedian. Five minutes later, Hirsch knocked a long diagonal pass from Will Bridgeman into the net.
The final goal came in the 78th minute when Hirsch struck in a rebound after Abedian put one off the crossbar.
“I think we create our own luck in this game,” Hirsch said. “Andre did a great job of getting his head around on that ball, and the ball popped out in my favor, and I made sure I tucked it away for him.”
The best opportunity for the Olympians (5-3-3) came 40 seconds into the contest when Andrew Thomasson missed just wide to the left with a shot from 30 yards.
“We played well from the get-go,” East coach Brad Barber said. “I was excited to see the strong start. We just kind of ran out of steam.”
“We kind of figured that they’d come out with a little bit of adrenaline because it’s North and East,” Morelock said. “But we knew if we could get past the first 10 minutes, we could take control.”
The Bull Dogs out-shot the Olympians 28-13, putting 12 shots on goal to East’s five. JB Baxter recorded nine saves for the Olympians, while Matt Verplank had five saves for North.
The loss was the second in a row against a ranked team for East, who fell 6-0 at Fishers on Saturday.
“We knew we had two good opponents in front of us with North and Fishers,” Barber said. “We didn’t want to deviate from our style, even though we were starting a very young backline and felt like this would be a good experience for us going into the rest of the conference and the sectional.”
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