Sixth-straight crown for Muskie boys

Joey Payeur

Change the coach, shuffle a few players in and out of the roster—it makes no difference to the Muskie boys’ soccer team.
Their NorWOSSA dominance remains inarguable and absolute.
Fort High nabbed its sixth-straight NorWOSSA title last Wednesday—routing the host Dryden Eagles 8-0 in the final to cap a stellar season of league play.
Not only did the Muskies finish unbeaten, they outscored the Eagles and Kenora Broncos by a combined 38-1—and that one came on a Broncos’ penalty kick.
“I’m very proud of the kids,” said head coach Chris Sinclair, who made it a seamless transition from former coach Shane Beckett to himself in his rookie campaign at the helm.
“Every game this season, they did everything we asked them to do and more,” he noted.
The team bus left yesterday headed for Kingsville and the OFSAA ‘AA’ boys’ championship, which begins tomorrow and wraps up Saturday.
Part of the crew is striker Max Williams, who has been down the same OFSAA road the last few years.
Williams, who led NorWOSSA with 12 goals during the regular season and scored once in last week’s final, is confident this Muskie team not only can top last year’s best-ever record of 2-2 but finally advance out of pool play.
“We have an idea of our strengths and weaknesses,” said Williams. “We used to just send the balls through [but] now we have intricate passing as part of our attack.
“After all these years of never making it to the medal round, I definitely think we can make it,” he added.
“I’m hoping after what happened in hockey, this can hopefully be comparable to that,” smiled Williams, who played defence on the OFSAA championship-winning Muskie boys’ hockey squad this past season.
Dryden advanced to the final the hard way—having to go to extra time before shelling Kenora for four goals to win the semi-final 6-2.
But the Eagles had their wings clipped in the title game before they even could leave the nest, with Ian Jodoin doing the honours.
The veteran Muskie midfielder drilled home the game’s opening goal before the contest was a minute old on a play Fort High has tried numerous times before this season and finally got to work.
Joey Angus raced down the left sideline, then fed Kevin Metke inside the 18-yard box for a shot that was stopped by Dryden keeper Gunnar Anderson.
But Jodoin quickly put home the rebound.
Only three minutes later, Jodoin accepted an on-target lead pass, got Anderson to move the wrong way, and blasted the ball the other direction into the lower left corner.
“That was really helpful,” Williams said about the Muskies’ dream start.
“In games we’ve had trouble this year, we couldn’t bury our chances,” he noted.
“When Ian finished those off, it was good to help us get the nerves out.”
A shell-shocked Eagles’ never recovered, with Williams’ bullet off the post cashed in by James Gushulak in the 22nd minute for a 3-0 lead.
Williams didn’t miss the next time—ripping a shot in the 35th minute that Anderson got his hands on, but had the ball deflect off him and roll right through as he lunged behind him in vain to try and corral it.
Cam Lidkea put the exclamation mark on with one minute left in the half, jamming home a rebound from in tight after Tyler VanUden’s original shot from the right wing.
“One of the keys going in was for us to get up early,” said Sinclair.
“We didn’t want a 1-0 game and have a lucky bounce tie it up for them,” he stressed.
“It allowed our other players a chance to play.”
One of those was Caleb Koomans, who cranked a close-in shot in the 74th minute.
He then made a perfect pass to spring VanUden in alone on a breakaway two minutes later.
“Caleb’s been a very good player for us,” lauded Sinclair. “He’s fast and uses his speed well, and he sees the whole field.
“We needed him to play more of a defensive role this year, something that was not what he wanted to at first,” Sinclair added.
“But he’s got better and better at it.”
VanUden closed out the rout with a header in the 80th minute for his second of the game.
Cole Kowalski, who spent much of the with little to do thanks to the defence in front of him, once again barely was tested to earn the shutout.
Kowalski likely will get much more of a chance to strut his stuff when the challenge of OFSAA arrives.
The Muskies are the fourth seed in Pool ‘C’ of the 20-team tournament.
The pool also includes the top-seeded St. Andre Bessette Bulldogs (London), second-ranked Ascension Eagles (Mississauga), third-ranked Glendale Bears (Hamilton), and fifth-seeded St. Michael Mustangs (Kemptville).
The Muskies begin play tomorrow at 11 a.m. (all times CDT) against the Bulldogs, then face the Bears at 2 p.m.
Then on Friday, they’ll square off against the Mustangs at 8:30 a.m. before closing out pool play at 11:30 a.m. against the Eagles.
The top two teams from each of the four pools move on to the quarter-finals Friday afternoon.
The semi-finals will go on Saturday morning, followed by the bronze-medal game at noon.
The final is slated for 12:30 p.m.
“Our ultimate goal all season was to get to OFSAA and get out of the round-robin,” confirmed Sinclair.
“That’s our mentality going in.”
As for contacting his predecessor for tips, Sinclair wasn’t looking a gift horse in the mouth.
“[Beckett] will be getting a call this week so I know what to expect,” he remarked.