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J.B. Baxter has the same objective in mind when he goes into every game.
He wants a shutout.
The Columbus East junior goalkeeper had eight of those last season when he posted an 0.96 goals-against average and was voted MVP of the Olympians boys soccer team by his teammates. He hopes to improve on that number this fall.
“Goalkeeper at the high school level is probably the most important position,” East coach Brad Barber said.
The Baxter file
Name: J.B. Baxter
School: Columbus East
Honors: Voted team MVP, second-team All-Hoosier Hills Conference last season
“He’s certainly a vocal leader for the defense that plays in front of him. His shot-stopping ability is continuing to improve and is the best I’ve seen at East in a long, long time and he’s grown into that leadership role.”
That defense in front of Baxter will be quite a bit younger this season.
Instead of three seniors and a junior on the back line, the Olympians will have a senior and three sophomores on defense.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a learning process for our defense to get organized in front of him,” Barber said.
“The defenders in front of him read the game well, they’re smart and they’re technically sound, but they’re not as athletic as our seniors were last year, so for J.B., there’s going to be more of an onus to keep the ball out of the net.”
Not only will East be young on defense, it is largely unproven on offense. In Mitch Tabler, Colin Singer and Cameron Layman, the Olympians lost three seniors who combined for 28 goals and 24 assists.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure this year,” Baxter said. “But we have Derek Schutte this year, and hopefully, he’s going to bring what they brought. Adam Wallace in the back helps with his experience.”
Baxter is a captain this year, along with seniors Wallace and Alex Staggs. Schutte, a sophomore, is playing with East for the first time after spending last season with the Indiana Developmental Academy.
Baxter meanwhile played up a level in club soccer this past year. The 16-year-old was a part of the Columbus Express 18U squad.
“It helped me come along and get a lot of experience at a higher level of soccer,” Baxter said.
This summer, Baxter went to an Exact Soccer camp in Cincinnati and a camp at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. He hopes the exposure and his play on the field will lead to a college scholarship.
Baxter and the Olympians have had mixed results in their first three games of this season. Following a 2-0 loss to East Central Thursday, East tied 10th-ranked Center Grove 2-2 and downed Mooresville 4-0 in Saturday’s Center Grove Tournament.
After playing 80 minutes in each of the first two games, Baxter shared the shutout in the Mooresville game with teammate A.J. Cruite.
Baxter is primed to record shutouts in each of the Olympians’ Hoosier Hills Conference games this season.
He allowed only one in HCC contests last season when East went unbeaten in the conference.
Baxter credits his private goalkeeper coach, John Sandlin of Columbus, with much of his success.
“He’s been a big help throughout all my years,” Baxter said.
“If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I’d be at the level I am right now.”
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