Muskie boys win away from back-to-back league titles

Lucas Punkari

It’s a different road than what they faced a year ago in Kenora, but the end goal is still the same for the Muskie boys’ soccer team.
Having won both the semi-final and the final last May to capture the NorWOSSA title, the black-and-gold have a bye straight into the championship game this afternoon at St. Francis Field, with a chance to return to the all-Ontarios on the line.
Their opponent for the 1:30 p.m. contest was to be determined earlier today as the Kenora Broncos and Dryden Eagles squared off in the semi-final.
But Muskie head coach Shane Beckett is ready for whoever advances.
“We’ve seen and played against each other so often that there is not a whole lot of scouting that really needs to be going on anymore,” he explained.
“On our end, this will really be the first time that we have been a full team since Winnipeg,” Beckett noted.
“We will be having [defender] Braedon Keast coming back into the lineup, and a lot of our other players will finally be healed up from a few bumps and bruises.
“We will finally get a chance to see what we are capable of as a team, and it will be nice to showcase that in the final,” he added.
Needing only a single point in their final regular-season action last Wednesday in Kenora to nab the top seed in the playoffs, Fort High took care of that task with relative ease—clinching from the get-go with a 2-0 win over Dryden on goals by Tim Metke and Colton Craig.
“That was probably the best game that we have played in weeks,” Beckett enthused.
“We were quick off the ball and with the ball, our first touch was a lot better, and we played more like we are capable of playing,” he noted.
With a bye to the final already assured, Beckett then rested most of his starters and had a majority of first-year players on the pitch for their regular-season finale against the Broncos, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
“Even though it ended up in a tie, the young guys were really pumped up with that result,” Beckett said.
“They were up against 17- and 18-year-old guys out there and they looked very well against them.
“They were rock solid out there with their movement of the ball and their defending,” he lauded.
Cam Gobeil netted both goals for the black-and-gold, with his first marker being a 38-yard strike that went over the keeper and into the back of the net.
A cohesive mix of youth and experience has been one of the keys for the Muskies this season as a variety of players have contributed to their league best 4-0-2 record.
“I think that we have grown together as a group as the season has gone on,” said Grade 11 keeper Scott Parsons.
“The younger guys are really starting to develop nicely,

especially as they are getting more playing time as of recently, and a lot of our older players are really getting into their groove right now,” he added.
During practice this past week, the squad has been spending a lot of time fine-tuning things leading into today’s NorWOSSA final, in addition to working on their penalty kick skills just in case the match is forced to go that far.
“It usually tends to come down to this,” Beckett stressed. “This is my eighth season as a head coach, and probably half of the finals during that time have all come down to penalty kicks.
“The league is so tight, and we know each other so well, that it usually ends up coming down to those final kicks,” he noted.
“We hope it never does come down to that, but we do plan for it.”
The players themselves also are hoping the match doesn’t head into penalty kicks. They feel a quick start will make all the difference.
“We need to make sure that we don’t let up out there,” stressed Craig, who is in Grade 11 and plays a role on the wings.
“We know what we have to do at this point to achieve our overall goal, and that will be by keeping the ball moving and by sticking to our game plan.”
The winner of today’s final will advance to the OFSAA ‘AA’ championships June 6-9 in North Bay.