The Creston Valley Youth Soccer Association’s U-16 boys team: (back row

The Creston Valley Youth Soccer Association’s U-16 boys team: (back row

Creston U-16 boys soccer team wins gold

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The Creston Valley Youth Soccer Association’s U-16 boys team, which has already qualified for the provincial championships (July 6-10) in Penticton, won gold in Montana at the Three Blind Refs tournament in Kalispell on the first weekend of June. Coming off the success of a home tournament where the boys won all three games to win first place, the team anticipated a challenging tournament against some much larger soccer clubs.

The first game was against the Idaho Thunder. Despite a clear advantage in possession, Creston had difficulty getting the ball on net. After a scoreless first half, Idaho began to improve their play. As luck would have it, they found a seam between the defence and scored late in the game to take the lead. After some anxious minutes, Creston was able to tie the game on a beautiful give-and-go play between Niel Jacobsen and Max Sombrowski, with Jacobsen directing the ball into the far corner. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The second game was against a strong Calgary Blizzard squad. A hard fought match, Creston earned a 1-0 victory on a shot by Jacobsen off a corner kick from Devon Ferguson.

The third match was a little easier against a youthful squad from Koo-tenay South. After first-half goals by Jacobsen and Nick Mottl, Greg Benty added an insurance goal in the second half and Creston controlled the play and cruised to a 3-0 victory.

This set up a championship match against the host Flathead Football Club. Heading into the final, the teams had identical records (in tournament play, six points are awarded for a win, one point for a shutout and one point per goal scored up to three points).

The game started off with some nice passing by both sides. Creston keeper Brayden Czar made two great saves early to keep the score at 0-0. About halfway through the first half, Sombrowski scored off a rebound to make it 1-0. A few minutes later, after some excellent work in the corner by the Blitzz, Dean Torginson was hauled down in the box. Jacobsen scored on the penalty kick to put the Blitzz up 2-0.

Creston kept up the pressure in the second half and took over the game. They added three more goals in the second half; a beautiful passing play saw the ball moved nine times before Robin Kessler buried it, then a nice individual effort saw Benty deke a defender, turn and find the back of the net. Finally, Jacobsen outran one defender and outmuscled a second, then blasted the ball far corner. The game ended 5-0 and Creston won gold.

Bill Ferguson and Dan Pawsey have done an excellent job coaching the team. Throughout the tournament, the opposition was frustrated by the onside trap of the Creston fullbacks, led by Patrick More, Ethan VandenBrink, Seth Schmidt, Bret Sutcliffe and Lukas Gribbon.

Every player plays. Every player knows their role on the team. They play a great possession game with tic-tac-toe passing and is beginning to gel as a team. While it is mostly the same group that won the junior boys high school championship last fall for Prince Charles Secondary School, there are three transfers from the East Kootenay Rovers, Robin Kessler and Ethan VandenBrink of Cranbrook and Max Sombrowski of Fernie.

•The U-16 boys team returned from Lethbridge with a second place finish at the annual Lethbridge FC tournament. One of the bigger tournaments in Alberta, it features several teams vying for the provincial championship. Creston started off with a 2-2 tie against Canmore, then lost for only the third time this season to a large and powerful Coaldale team. They finished with two victories, defeating Okotoks and Edmonton International Elite. The season record now stands at 10 wins, three losses and two ties.

•The Creston Blitzz U-17 squad defeated Columbia Valley in Cranbrook on June 7 to win a berth in the provincial championships. This is the second year in a row coach Todd Hawton’s squad will represent the Kootenays.