A grand start and end to the Jr. Cougars’ soccer season

It was a weird season for the junior boys soccer team the fallout from the prolonged strike resulted in the cancellation of two tournaments

RYAN WILLMAN

Arrow Lakes News

It was a weird season for the junior boys soccer team; the fallout from the prolonged strike resulted in the cancellation of two mainstay tournaments: Creston and our home tournament in Nakusp. These important tournaments act as cornerstones of the Cougars’ soccer season. The ensuing chaos created a difficult environment for the coaches at Nakusp Secondary School who struggled along with the rest of the province to salvage any sort of a season for the boys.

Thanks to the efforts of veteran coach Rod Morrison who managed to wrangle together a few teams from around the Kootenays and Okanagon, the Jr.’s had an opportunity to travel out of town and don their cleats for a play day in Grand Forks.

On October 16 the boys piled into the bus on a cold rainy morning and headed south to play their first and last group of games for the year.

The rain didn’t let up as the team arrived at the school field to square off against the familiar blue and gold Creston squad. The rainy conditions combined with the “off the bus” nerves caused the Cougars to scramble at the start of the match, resulting in some poor decisions and a greasy goal that slipped through keeper Ben Gardner’s hands.

Once the body and the team acclimatized to the taxing conditions, the grinding efforts of Nakusp opened up the field and created opportunities for the Cougars to apply the lessons and skills learned during practice.

The contest slowly tipped from a defensive game to a continuous offensive drive as the forward attackers pressed through the blue and gold wall. Cool and tenacious efforts from the Cougar midfield provided the key into the offensive’s 18 yard box as the ball found passing lanes along the touch lines into the Creston zone. Several times Brayden Reardon’s true grit moxie and skill managed to muscle the ball up the sides and into the danger zone to create cookie opportunities.

The Cougars never let up the pressure even when Creston unloaded a skilled shot from 40 yards outside the net placing the ball deftly in the top right corner.

Nothing you can do about that,” coach Morrison said. “That was a hell of a shot.”

The 0-2 loss, nor the onslaught of rain and wind, didn’t deter the boys as our bench was simply turned around for the immediate next match on the adjacent field against Boundary Central. Compared to the smaller, quick passing unit from Creston, the Boundary kids in blue and white looked like giants on the pitch. But bending up at the neck, the Cougars did not shy away from meeting the challenge of their sizable opponents and pitched their faith in Morrison’s game plan.

Undaunted, the Cougars put shoulder to shoulder and battled hard for possession in the boiling pot around the middle of the field and managed to stand their own in the scrums. However, an unlucky bounce over the head of keeper Alex Roberts seemingly favored size over guts as the Cougars fell to an early deficit of 0-1. The strikers rotated, and the game was far from over as the Jr. Cougars refused to let up or be intimidated by the blue monsters. Connor Scambler embodied Cougar tenacity as he raced headlong into the o-zone. His continued pressure eventually yielded results as Scambler won the ball deep in the Boundary zone and a quick turn and pass to the centre found an unattended Tim Barisoff who squarely pocketed the first goal for Nakusp. Energized, the boys’ creativity and hustle uncovered a multitude of offensive lanes to the net, but a combination of bad luck and youthful exuberance did not yield any more results. The game was left at a tie.

Next up were the hosts at Grand Forks, and the Cougars were primed and ready to play. The jitters were gone, the first goal was under their belt and even the rain let up a little for the duration of the final match. Eric Vieira started things off on the right foot after an impressive feed from Reardon in the first two minutes of the game which allowed for an uninhibited shot on goal that sailed over the keeper and into the net. Vieira continued to dominate the offensive line as the skilled play of the halfbacks continued to feed the cookie machine with chances. Seemingly inspired by the flurry of chances, the Cougars found their stride and opened up a number of opportunities for goals from all sides of the net. Before the whistle signaled the end of the first half the Cougars were rewarded with another goal from a blistering kick from Kiernan Troute, which jammed the ball through the keepers hands an into the net.

The good times continued to roll in the second half as big saves from keeper Ben Gardner propped up the spirit of the team and an impressive game-ending goal delivered from left field to the top right corner of the net by Brody Herridge ended the day with a positive 3-0 win for the Cougars.

 

Arrow Lakes News