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As the final seconds ticked away in Columbus North’s 1-0 regional soccer championship victory over East Central at the Wigh Soccer Complex on Saturday, Trojans coach B.J. Black urged his players to mount an offensive attack.
Black, and his players alongside him on the bench, sank emotionally as, once again, North (19-0-1) smothered any potential scoring opportunity and took off toward the other end. It’s hard to think about offense when the other team is shooting at your keeper.
In 80 minutes of play, North goalie Matt Verplank had to make just one stop. And even though the Bull Dogs didn’t capitalize on their many scoring opportunities, most of the action took place on East Central’s half of the field.
When the Trojans (14-6-1) finally did penetrate into North territory, a defender such as junior Andrew Gold would steal the ball away, and send it the other direction.
Gold, senior Hugh Hamill, junior Brayton Thornburg and senior William Bridgeman constantly were feeding North’s talented forwards, forcing the Trojans to play in a defensive mode most of the contest.
“One of coach’s main talking points is about 100 percent pressure 100 percent of the time,” Bridgeman said.
“We played like we always do,” said North coach Andy Glover after his team posed with the school’s 11th regional championship trophy. “But East Central disrupted our rhythm. They were well-coached, organized and prepared.”
Glover said the Bull Dogs created several scoring opportunities over the course of the game, but “the quality of our shots needed to be a little bit better.”
North senior forward Ethan Smith might have been guilty of taking a few low percentage shots, but he did hit the net when it counted most. Senior midfielder Riley Belding directed a perfect header pass to Smith in front of the goal, and he booted the ball past East Central keeper Jacob Zengerling with 6:47 remaining in the first half.
East Central did try to offer pressure, but North’s defense was simply too good. The Trojans grew more frustrated, and it appeared the game might get very physical.
“We try to keep our heads, keep our calm,” Gold said. “I feel like I played all right and had a solid game, but there is more in the tank.”
If there is more in the Bull Dogs’ tank, opponents would seem to be in trouble. North heads to the Evansville Harrison Semi-State game Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. EDT (noon CDT) against Avon. The championship will be at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. CDT).
Bridgeman agreed that the Bull Dogs can bring their level of play to an even higher level, but he was enjoying the team’s subdued celebration on the Bull Dogs’ home field.
“We started the game pretty intense, but it dropped off toward the end of the first half,” he said. “We got it back in the second half.
“This was my last game at home. And obviously we want to win championships. This was a good stepping stone.”
Glover said he hoped his players would take a day to savor the regional championship.
And after that?
“Back to work,” Glover said.
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