Muskies end OFSAA play on winning note

Lucas Punkari

Although they failed to make it to the playoff round at the OFSAA ‘AA’ boys’ soccer championships in North Bay last week, the Muskies were able to accomplish something they haven’t done in nearly a decade.
In their final game of Pool ‘A’ play Friday afternoon, the black-and-gold earned a 2-0 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas (Oakville), which left Fort High with a 1-3 record.
“Since I’ve been involved with the program for nearly 10 years, it’s the first time we’ve won at OFSAA and it might be the first time the program has ever done it,” enthused Muskie head coach Shane Beckett.
“One of the biggest issues we have had when we come down here is that while we say we can win, we don’t honestly believe that we can do it,” he admitted.
“But now that we have been able to break that bubble, I think we can start to believe in ourselves playing well and getting wins here, like we do in NorWOSSA play.”
Having been eliminated from playoff contention earlier Friday, the Muskies were looking to finish the tournament on a strong note—and they did just that as Cam Gobeil and Brandon Sinclair scored after numerous chances against St. Thomas Aquinas.
“We were flying all over the field,” Beckett recalled.
“Our game plan of applying high pressure caused their fullbacks and their midfields to cough up a lot of balls, and our defence was playing well in our end, so we spent the majority of the game in their half of the field.
“Both of the goals that we scored were kind of sloppy, as one bounced off of a defender and the other was misplayed by the keeper,” he noted.
“But they were both well-earned goals as we dominated the run of play.”
The win came after a tough 2-1 loss Friday morning to the Prince Edward Panthers (Picton), which officially eliminated the black-and-gold from playoff contention.
After falling behind 2-0 early in the second half, Fort High kept the pressure on with Colton Craig scoring with 10 minutes to go.
But the squad was unable to complete the comeback.
“We really called out the boys before the game to go out and play with pride, and they went out and responded to that by playing their hearts out,” Beckett said.
“They pushed the game to Prince Edward and carried the play for most of the game, and we also out-chanced them for the most part.
“But we just couldn’t put the ball into the net,” he sighed.
The Muskies had opened OFSAA play Thursday with a pair of losses—falling 3-0 to the top-ranked Cardinal Carter Cougars in the morning before losing to the St. Mary’s Huskies (Toronto) 1-0 that afternoon.
“In the first half we were playing right with them [Cardinal Carter], and there were equal opportunities for both sides,” Beckett noted.
“We had a little bit of a breakdown at the start of the second half on the first goal they scored, and you can’t have any breakdowns against a team like them if you want to win,” he stressed.
“Their second goal came after we had a mistimed kick that they were able to take control of.
“And while we pushed hard and had a lot of chances to score, we lacked some polish around the goal,” Beckett admitted.
“We were pretty flat in the first half against St. Mary’s,” he continued. “And the goal that they scored came off one of those goal-mouth scrambles after the ball slid underneath of [keeper] Scott [Parsons].
“In the second half, though, we came out flying and applied a ton of pressure, and Colton Craig actually scored on a header in the dying minutes only for it to be called back on an offside.
“It looked like it was a borderline call, but that’s just how things go,” he reasoned.
While the 1-3 record wasn’t quite what the Muskies were hoping for, Beckett feels the team did perform quite well against the top teams in the province.
“I think that our defensive systems worked well,” he remarked. “And while our place in the pool won’t show it, the one-goal games that we lost showed that we aren’t as far back to those teams.
“Even though we only came back with one win, that is huge for us as it should hopefully get the monkey off our back for the future,” he stressed.
Although six players from this year’s squad (Tim Metke, Gavin Moorhouse, Braedon Keast, Brandon McGinnis, Jason Angus, and Sinclair) will be leaving the program, Beckett also feels the future is looking bright, especially with the performance of some of the younger players at OFSAA.
“We had Max Williams start in two games for us, and for a Grade 9 kid he was unbelievable,” he enthused.
“He played in three different positions during the tournament, and he was having no problem at all handling himself against some of the top teams in the province.
“And with our Grade 11 players, Scott Parsons played well in net, Colton Craig was electrifying up front, and Lucas Koomans was a dominant force for us,” Beckett added.