The Muskie boys’ soccer team edged the Dryden Eagles 2-1 on penalty kicks in the NWOSSAA ‘AA’ final here yesterday to advance to the provincial championship June 5-7 in St. Catharines.
Muskie head coach Shane Beckett said the win was especially rewarding due to the fact Dryden had beaten Fort High on penalty kicks last year in the NorWOSSA final.
“It feels awesome to win,” he enthused. “I would have loved to have done it sooner [as opposed to going to kicks], but it’s kind of sweet revenge for what took place last year.”
Muskie captain Tyson Quibell was proud of the team’s performance under the intense pressure.
“It [the win] showed that we can finish in the highest pressure to compete in,” he remarked.
Tension was high as the referee called the team captains to centre field for the coin flip to determine the order of kicks.
The Muskies won the toss and elected to have the Eagles go first.
Rookie keeper Thomas Edwards stepped into the net and gave his team something to cheer about as he made a diving stop. Steve Boileau then stepped up to the spot and hammered home the first Muskie kick to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five showdown.
Dryden’s next kicker beat Edwards, so the pressure was on Scott Gurski to maintain the Muskie advantage. Gurski hit the ball squarely but the Eagle keeper was up to the task—making the save.
After Edwards made his next save, Quibell scored to put the black-and-gold back in the lead.
The Eagles scored on their next kick, but Shane Ikert matched the feat—maintaining Fort High’s slim advantage heading into the last pair of shooters.
The final Eagle kicker stepped to the spot and drove a low, hard kick to Edwards’ right. The Muskie keeper dove—smothering the ball and earning his team the victory.
The Muskies then stormed the field to celebrate.
Afterwards, Beckett couldn’t say enough good things about his keeper.
“We tell them [the goalies] they should save one out of 10 and he saved three,” Beckett noted. “We took him because he’s a great shot stopper and we figured we could teach him a little about the game.
“He’s got a lot to learn but he’s so athletic and so confident in his ability,” Beckett added. “What a huge effort for him to make three stops out of five.”
The final began with some good play from both the Muskies and Eagles. The teams took turns making runs into the opposition’s end searching for holes in the defence.
The opening goal came early in the first half courtesy a harmless-looking free kick from just inside the Eagles’ half.
Kevin Plett volleyed the ball deep towards the Dryden goal, where an Eagle defender settled under it and tried to head the ball out of the box.
But instead of clearing the ball to safety, the Eagle player inadvertently headed it backwards into his own net for a goal—giving the Muskies the shocking 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to shake the Eagles as the Muskies dominated play for the rest of the half.
Quibell broke through the Eagles’ defence and found himself on a breakaway. He waited for the Eagle keeper to commit, but was unable to slide the ball past him.
A few minutes later, Plett let loose another long shot from well out of the Eagles’ goal. The shot beat the Eagle keeper but hit the crossbar, keeping the Muskie lead to a single goal as the referee blew the halftime whistle.
Dryden regrouped at halftime and looked much more composed to start the second half. The Eagles worked the ball methodically down the pitch testing the Muskie defence.
The Eagles eventually were awarded a penalty shot following an aggressive Muskie challenge in the box and the kicker made no mistake—slotting the ball past the outstretched arms of Edwards to even the score at 1-1.
The goal seemed to shake the Muskies, who suddenly found themselves in a tie game despite controlling the majority of play.
However, Fort High would regain the momentum a short while later when Plett sailed the ball just over the crossbar on another long free kick.
Plett’s near miss was followed up by another Quibell breakaway that was stopped by the Eagle keeper.
The Muskies continued to pressure the Eagles who began taking undisciplined penalties.
The turning point in the half came when Dryden was penalized for an aggressive challenge. One of the Eagles disputed the call with the referee and received two quick yellow cards, resulting in his ejection.
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