COLUMBIA CITY – The Columbia City’s boys soccer team (3-7-2) hopes to take home its first sectional title in the school’s history.

It’s an attainable goal but it won’t be easy.

In the past, Columbia City played larger schools such as Homestead in the sectional. The Eagles are 2A and won’t have to play the Spartans in post-season play this year, as Columbia City was re-seeded by the IHSAA.

“We don’t have the record we were hoping for, but we need to keep the belief that we can do it,” said head coach Derick Rice. “The road is rough right now, but we’re still right there. We have seen how well we can play. We have to play good as we know we are, so no matter who we draw, we’re ready for sectionals. We should know that we’ll win, now that we don’t have to draw a school like Homestead.”

The Eagles will open sectional play against Tippecanoe Valley. A Columbia City win would send it to them to the sectional final.

Columbia City’s highlight wins this season came against No. 8 Marion and a top 10 Bellmont team. Both teams are elite teams in the 2A class.

Collin wood gets set to kick the ball.

This season is Rice’s sixth as coach. The program has come a long way since he took over. Columbia City had five coaches within five years before Rice took the head coach position. The Eagles had just enough players to field a team for Rice’s first season. Now, it’s not unusual to have 60 kids come out for tryouts. Last season, Columbia City had the second most wins of any boys soccer team in school history.

“It’s rewarding to coach some of these kids from third grade to now. I’ve of course seen significant improvement from then. They are talented players,” said Rice.

The Eagles do need to improve in their last few games to be ready for the sectional. Columbia City lost four games this season by two or fewer goals.

“For some reason, we pass the ball really well in practice. Yet in the game, we’re wanting to make the killer pass instead of the practical and simple ones. We get a bit fancier than we need to. Often enough those passes get taken the other way for a score,” said Rice. “If a few things bounced our way we’d have more wins than losses, but sometimes soccer doesn’t always go the way you want it to.”

Rice said the players keep each other accountable for reaching their goals.

“They’ll let their teammates know if they’re slacking, because if they aren’t going full effort, how can they tell their teammates to go harder? We have installed that mentality into the team before the season,” said Rice.

It’s been more difficult for the Eagles to run hard as of late. Last week’s temperatures spiked into the 90’s last week. Columbia City still practiced as usual outside behind the baseball field.

“The heat drains them quick,” said Rice. “We like to exhort a lot of energy and move quickly. So, the heat is taking some energy away and it wears on them. There are times when you don’t have to run, but there comes a time where you have to. We’ve been doing runs this week to get used to the heat, but you can see the energy dying in the last five minutes of practice. We make sure to take care of our bodies and to hydrate, because we need to when it hits 90 degrees and hotter.”

Columbia City will rely on its senior leadership to take on the sectional. Goalie Logan Bachelder has done a fine job of keeping shots out of the goal.

“He’s kept us in a lot of games where we’ve had a slow start. He’s made huge saves when the defense is trying to adjust. I believe he’s the best goalie in the conference,” said Rice.

Columbia City has benefited from the defensive play of Senior Connor Davis.

“Connor has been a great asset on the back line. He was the only returning defender so he’s stepped up as a leader and shows the guys from his experience how to play,” said Rice.

Dominick Planchon is not quite a senior, but was a key leader for the Eagles this season and leads by example.

“We know what we’re getting from him every day. He brings hard work, he’s going to win the ball in the air, he’s going to pass to ball efficiently,” said Rice.

Columbia City has a pair of forwards in Frank Planchon and Colin Wood that is lethal for any opponent the Eagles face.

“They have the urgency to score when we need them and they find a way to go off together and score,” said Rice. “More times than not, they’re the best two players on the field no matter who we play. When we need them the most, they come up big.”