The NorWOSSA boys' soccer landscape has been painted black-and-gold for the better part of the last decade.
A 2-0 win over the visiting Kenora Broncos last Wednesday afternoon gave the Muskies their eighth-straight league title and yet another trip to the all-Ontarios that kick off tomorrow and run through Saturday in Windsor.
But it's been a different story for Fort High against the stiffer competition from southern schools at OFSAA—something Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair and his squad will be out to rectify this time around.
“The competition down at OFSAA is always so great, it's nothing like we get to see around here,” Sinclair remarked.
"My past two years we haven't won a game but that is always our goal going down there.
“Win one game in the round-robin [because] the top two teams in each pool advance,” he noted.
“So I think if you can win one game, you have a chance at going through to the playoff round.”
Sinclair acknowledged there's a very short window between the NorWOSSA final and the all-Ontarios, so getting in any quality practice time is a challenge.
“[Last] Thursday was used to relay all the information to the students and parents,” he noted.
"We had a little alumni game on Sunday where I asked a group of older players to come to the field to play against us.
"Then yesterday [Monday], we got on the field for a quick tune-up practice and then we'll leave tomorrow [Wednesday].
“I feel at this stage in the season, we don't want to introduce anything new,” Sinclair reasoned.
“I feel we are prepared for the upcoming challenge.”
As for the league final here last Wednesday between the Muskies and Broncos, offence was hard to come by in the first half.
Both squads had their chances but both Muskie keeper Jacob Albright and his Kenora counterpart were up to the task.
Cole Magill finally put the black-and-gold on the board in the early minutes of second half, finding some space before firing a shot past the Kenora keeper.
Connor Nelson doubled the lead just a few minutes later to put the Muskies in full control.
“I was very pleased with our performance on Wednesday,” Sinclair enthused.
“We controlled the ball and had possession for the majority of the game, played very solid defensively as we didn't give barely any opportunities, and finished on our chances.”
Kenora had a few chances later in the second half but Albright shut the door en route to nabbing the shutout and another NorWOSSA title for the Muskies.
Sinclair highlighted the stalwart play of Albright, who has stepped up admirably in place of the injured starter Cole Kowalski.
“Jacob Albright has been such an impact this year," he enthused. ”He's only a Grade 10 who was expected to split the duties in the net with Cole Kowalski.
“I remember the night in Kenora when the doctor told me that Cole would probably be done for three-four weeks, missing the rest of the season,” Sinclair recalled.
"Jacob asked me what the verdict was with Cole and when I told him he would be playing the rest of the year, he was kind of shocked and surprised.
“But he has made the most of this opportunity," Sinclair lauded. "And each game gives us a chance to win.”
Sinclair believes his squad utilized their speed very well in the final and how they were able to dictate play by playing the ball from the middle to the outsides, both on the ground or by switching the field.
“In order for this to happen, our wingers had to be on their toes, ready to move,” he noted.
"Nick Hahkala, Cole Magill, Matt Begin, and Peyton Avis are four players who play the two wings and I thought all four had great games.
"Especially offensively as they were able to generate most of our scoring chances.
“Another player who I felt had his strongest outing of the year was Connor Nelson,” Sinclair added.
“He's a kid that I use in all different positions and situations,” noted Sinclair.
“He has just gotten better and better throughout the year, and was nice to see him get rewarded with a goal.”
Sinclair said it's been a pleasure to coach the Muskies and is glad to give back to a sport that has played a big role in his life.
“I always knew that I wanted to coach and teach, and since starting my coaching with the high school teams, I have grown to love it,” he enthused.
"It has been a pleasure coaching this team for a few reasons.
“The majority of them are returning players, and one of the biggest joys of coaching is seeing kids develop and mature throughout the years,” he explained.
Sinclair also believes coaching also allows you to develop that relationship that you can't always make with the students in the school.
“Finally, sports was always a huge part of my life and I'm glad I can give back to the game that way,” he remarked.
“School sports is a huge blessing and having the opportunity to share that with the kids is amazing.”