Muskie boys seal ‘drive for five’

Joey Payeur

Seven wins in seven games this NorWOSSA season—none by less than two goals—have the Muskies looking to cause havoc at the OFSAA ‘AA’ championships, which begin tomorrow in North Bay tomorrow.
Fort High advanced to the provincial showdown after capturing its fifth-straight NorWOSSA crown with a 5-0 win over the Kenora Broncos in the league final here last Wednesday.
“Four years ago, we had seven kids in Grade 9 who we thought would be the nucleus of what would be an outstanding team this year,” said Muskie head coach Shane Beckett, whose team now has won seven of the past 10 NorWOSSA titles.
“At the start of this year, we lost two [Ben Whitburn and Jacob Bolzan] and were down to five,” he noted.
“And now we’ve lost two more for OFSAA [David Pryde and Matt Berube] and are down to three, and that maturity and experience isn’t there so much.
“But with those guys gone, now guys like Isaac Firth and Joey Angus get more time. Oh no,” Beckett deadpanned about the two high-energy, productive forwards in the Muskies’ attack.
“It also means more time for younger guys like Caleb Koomans and Chase McGuire get out there more,” he added.
“We’ve got so much depth.”
The Muskies were on guard against a pumped-up Kenora team that had eliminated the Dryden Eagles 3-2 (4-3 on penalty kicks) in the semi-final earlier Wednesday.
It took just five minutes to quell any thoughts of an upset by the Broncos as Firth was hauled down in Kenora’s 18-yard box to draw a penalty kick.
Connor Bujold proved his coach’s faith in him to be correct as the team’s choice to take the kick when he hammered the ball into the bottom right corner, with Kenora keeper Brendan Loranger not even flinching.
“You look at a guy like Connor, who we cut in Grade 9 and who came back to make the team in Grade 10, and who now scores a penalty-kick goal in the final in Grade 12 and who just doesn’t ever get taken off the field,” lauded Beckett.
“He reminds me of Gavin Moorhouse, who never saw the field as a Grade 9 with us six years ago and the next year never came off the field.”
Koomans then made a scintillating rush down the right-wing, and tightroped the end line, to find Max Williams in the middle of the Broncos’ 18-yard box for a 2-0 lead at the 15-minute mark.
Fort High, as it had for most of the season, poured on the first-half pressure and struck again in the 32nd minute.
Ian Jodoin laced a corner kick into the box that bounced around a bit before Berube got a foot on it and put it off a Kenora defender before it just trickled over the goal line eluding a lunging Loranger.
Tyler Ruppenstein erased any chance of second-half drama with a minute left before halftime—expertly corralling a high entry pass before whipping a shot past Loranger from eight yards out for a 4-0 lead.
“It was important for us to let them know early that this game was not going to be any different than like the rest of the season, where we didn’t have a lot of difficulty playing them,” said Grade 12 striker Kevin Metke, whose blast from the edge of the box in the 60th minute was the only goal of the second half.
The Muskie defence, meanwhile, was just as impressive.
Keeper Gavin Richardson never had to make a save the entire game, and only took one goal kick, as every foray towards the Muskie net by Kenora quickly was cut off.
“Our defence was definitely a big part of the win,” said Firth, who is in his Grade 12 season.
“When you’re facing a team where you should have a lot of possession of the ball, you have to be defence first to get that possession,” he reasoned.
“They didn’t come within 18 yards of our goal the whole game and that’s unheard of,” commended Beckett.
“All that starts with the guys up top that are applying the big pressure.”
The Muskies—unseeded in the 20-team OFSAA field—open play in Pool ‘A’ tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. (all times CDT) against the unseeded Jean Vanier Catholic High School Jaguars (Richmond Hill).
It’s a rematch in which Fort High wants to deliver some payback for last year.
“We were winning 1-0 in the second half and Jean Vanier scored two in the last 10 minutes and beat us 2-1,” Beckett recalled.
The Muskies then go up against the unseeded Simcoe Composite School Sabres (Simcoe) at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.
In another repeat from last year, Fort High gets to face the top-ranked team in the tournament on Friday at 7 a.m.—this time being the Ascension of Our Lord Secondary School Eagles (Mississauga).
“Having to play the No. 1 seed is tough,” Beckett conceded.
“But we played the No. 1 team last year and we only lost 1-0, and they scored late,” he said, referring to the loss to the Ecole secondaire l’Essor Aigles (Tecumseh).
Fort High then wraps up pool play Friday at 11:30 a.m. against the unseeded Honourable W.C. Kennedy Collegiate Institute Clippers.
The top two teams from each pool advance to the quarter-finals, which go later Friday.
The semi-finals and final are set for Saturday.
The NorWOSSA title is all well and good in the Muskies’ mind.
But with just one OFSAA win to show for their previous four visits (ironically, in North Bay in 2012), Beckett and his players believe there’s no time like the present to transfer their league dominance to the provincial level.
“We’ve had one-goal losses, we’ve had ties, but we’ve got to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat,” stressed Beckett.
Graduating senior Derek Kaemingh, who came back for his “victory lap” season and now enters his final competitive week as a Muskie, is setting his sights high.
“Our goal is definitely to get into the playoffs,” said the veteran defender.
“We could certainly get there with two wins and a couple of ties,” he noted.
“I’ll be very happy to get out of the first round.”