The drop-heel pass began as an ongoing joke during the Cougar’s soccer practices leading up to the locally hosted Senior Boys A soccer playoffs held on Wednesday Oct. 18. But what started as a lighthearted move translated into a significant addition to the boy’s bag of tricks and proved to be the catalyst in a pivotal play that secured the day in the Cougar’s favour.
The Kootenay Playoffs was one of those tournaments when everything seemed to turn out right for our boys in grey; the sun managed to wrestle its way out of the recent cloud cover and provide a sunny venue for the playoffs, scads of students were herded over to the field by their teachers to support their team, and the ball seemed to be tied to the feet of our Cougar squad as they battled against old rivals.
“We got one thing on our minds today,” Kodi Bowman bellowed from the middle of the Cougars pre-game huddle, “Victory!”
The boys invaded the field after their cheer and stood ready, loose and eager to put the pressure on an equally charged Mt. Sentinel team. Right out of the gate the Cougars took control of the ball and claimed it as theirs; using smart passes, excellent position and a general spark in their step, they kept the Mt. Sentinel squad trapped in a goose egg on the scorecard.
After ten minutes and three shots on goal, two of which sailed over the net as the boys tried to harness their unbridled energy, the Cougars managed to settle their nerves and calm the frantic play.
First blood was drawn when Max McCoy put a stamp on the ball and delivered a beautiful through-pass to Zach Freidenberg who used his speed to gain space deep in the offensive zone. Under immediate pressure from the Mt. Sentinel defense, Zach coolly managed to cross the ball to streaking midfielder Nathan Haw who wasted no time finding the net from just inside the penalty area. The Cougars were energized and continued to pour on the disciplined pressure, allowing Nathan to assert his dominance at the top of the 18 yard box. Nathan’s next goal was earned before the half was over when hard work won a turnover in the Mt. Sentinel corner allowing the midfielder to receive an errant feed and put the ball to bed by tucking a one-timer under the crossbar.
After the half, the ball developed a little life and started to bounce around as both teams looked noticeably tired and couldn’t maintain any effective control. Suddenly Zach Friedenberger managed to calm the erratic ball and brought the play back to the deck with a crisp pass along the carpet that found fellow striker Brett Mengler, whose shot on net was ricocheted away by a mob of collapsing Mt. Sentinel players. Brett got turned around in the ensuing scrum, but managed to regain possession and without any other option put a heel on the ball sending it through the chaos and into the net. There was the slightest hint of a pause as both teams and fans sorted out the spectacle they had just witnessed, and then a hurly burly of jeers and cheers from field rose to a crescendo as the boys celebrated the unusual goal.
The heel-ball was to be the pivotal nail that sealed up the game as the Mt. Sentinel team continued to struggle out of the three goal deficit against a Cougar team who was more than happy to fall into a defensive style of game. The dogged efforts of the Mt. Sentinel team was rewarded once when an unlucky bounce trickled into the back of the Cougar net, but the team still found themselves behind after the final whistle cemented the 4-1 victory in Nakusp’s favor.
Rossland was next in line to take on the Cougars, and the Nakusp boys were eager to right the 0-5 loss suffered on home turf during the September tournament.
“Go hard or go home!” was the second rally cry as the grey shirts took the field against the Rossland squad. The Nakusp play was quick and reeked of the confidence gained from the first game win. The potent defensive pair of Kodi Bowman and Quinton Fahlman stood up like a brick wall against the Rossland attacks, deftly turning balls away to the corners where they were picked up by the skilled footwork of the outside midfield team of Max McCoy and Clinton Surina. Using a well-practiced combination of touch passing, triangle formations and raw swagger the midfield team were able to move the ball into the offensive zone where Zach Friedenberger and Brett Mengler were waiting to tickle the twine. However, despite the smart-looking plays being set up by the Cougars, the first goal of the game came from a messy chaos in front of the Rossland net when a corner thumped into play by Quinton Fahlman was punched out by the Rossland keeper into a hoard of bodies crowding the front of the net. In the ensuing pinball confusion of trashing legs and pushing bodies the ball was redirected off the back of a Cougar player and rolled deftly past the goal line. A dirty goal, but a welcomed first taste for the Nakusp team who quickly moved to exploit the rush of taking an early lead.
The Nakusp squad had several other opportunities as they relentlessly put pressure on the Rossland players who had left their defensive line weakened by placing several players floating high along the centre line in hopes of breaking through the Nakusp line. In another testament to his speed and agility, Zach Friedenberger charged into the Rossland keeper after a saved ball, and the ensuing tie up allowed Zach to get a foot on the fumbled ball to score his third of the day. The Rossland keeper, obviously irritated by the Zach’s tenacity let his frustration get the better of him moments later when a tough carry-up the wing by Zach found the Rossland keeper out of position, allowing Zach to slide the ball in near post thus driving the score to a comfortable 3-0 lead.
The match was to be rounded out with the final goal of the game coming after a throw-in by Clint Surina was pressured by our strikers to earn a corner kick. Kodi Bowman moved up from the defensive line to take the kick, and put a thunderous high curve on the ball which sailed right at the keeper who accidently two-hand punched the ball into his own net. The day was concluded with a final of 4-0 for the Nakusp squad, earning a double victory for the day and a trip to Victoria where they will see if their heel-passes will make the difference at a provincial level.