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Warriors earn berth after shootout

Fore-checking in mid-field and superior passing eventually carried the play,
Warriors defender John Samuels (in blue) marks the Mid-Isle forward Declan D’Eath

CRYSA Warriors lived up to their name Sunday in Ladysmith, prevailing  2-1 over the Mid-Isle Highlanders in a game that went to shoot-out to resolve.

Jack Crosby opened the scoring 14 minutes into the game, with a  high ball from 20 yards that tucked neatly just below the crossbar and behind the Mid-Isle keeper, who apparently thought the ball would fall safely behind the net – 1-0 Warriors.

Seven minutes later,  defending in their 18-yard area, a handball foul was called against Warriors mid-fielder Tanner Kempe, while he was blocking a shot at close range with his shoulder.  Mid-Isle forward Declan D’Eath was efficient in the penalty kick, selecting the left side just past warriors ‘keeper Brodie Comerford’s reach.

Both teams continued to challenge, but the Warrior’s fore-checking in mid-field and superior passing eventually carried the play, with Mid-Isle forays into the Warriors half occurring less often.

Mid-Isle’s best opportunity in the second half, a break-away, was foiled by keeper Gary Thiara, who charged out  to slide-tackle the ball away from the on-rushing attacker, while Warrior mid-fielder Jonah Shankar raced back to the Warrior’s goal line prepared to clear any shot on goal had Thiara’s gamble not worked.

The 70 minutes of regulation time ended with shots on goal favoring the Warriors, although the score line was tied 1-1.

A brief break provided the chance for Warriors coaches to encourage their players, then into 20 minutes of overtime play, in which neither team having any real chances. As overtime wound down, both coach’s thoughts turned to the shoot-out ahead.

Coaches had a few minutes to select the five players who would be their teams final competitors, then lined up at the half.  This was a new situation for the boys in this age group, and both sides were nervous.

Warriors teammates stood arm-in-arm as they watched Mid-Isle’s first shooter beat their keeper, Brodie Comerford, with a hard shot.

Tension went up when Jonah Shankar’s attempt was slightly wide, 1-0 for Mid-Isle.  When Mid-Isle’s second player missed, Lukas Guderjahn, who plays up an age group on the team, showed great presence of mind, tucking his shot low to the left post. Back in the game.

The next pair up, the Mid-Isle ball rang off the cross-bar and out, while Eugene Park exploited the same side of the Mid-Isle net – now it was 2-1 for Campbell River.  Neither of the teams’ fourth shooters were successful, leaving the game outcome up to the final two players.

Mid-Isle’s keeper took the position, and at the whistle, planted his ball firmly to the feet of Brodie Comerford, who captured it easily.   The Warrior’s final shooter was never needed, as the Warriors team – those on the field and those watching from the bench – as well as the many parents and supporters who made the trip to Ladysmith, erupted in cheers.

With the victory, the Warriors earned the Upper Island ‘B-Cup’ berth and will play against the Saanich Fusion FC (Lower Island rep) at home Sunday March 3 at Cedar school.

If they win that game,  they will be the Vancouver Island rep to the BC Soccer Association Provincial ‘B-Cup’ Championships, held July 4-7  in Prince George.  As Vancouver Island rep, we will also be eligible for the Coastal Cup tournament, played over April and May.

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