By Larry Moko
Cardinal Newman will be hosting the Ontario boys’ AAA high school soccer championship in two weeks and, with their stunning victory Thursday, the Cardinals guaranteed they’ll be competing in the tournament as well.
Newman won the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association title with an exciting 3-2 overtime victory over the visiting St. Thomas More Knights.
The hard-fought game was played in extremely gusty wind conditions. It was also sunny throughout and hot.
“It wasn’t easy,” Newman coach Gerry Moretuzzo said during the trophy and medal presentations. “We scored with no time left to tie it up.
“Advancing to OFSAA was our goal. This is special. Since we’re hosting OFSAA, there was a little more pressure on us to get there. Maybe I was a little rattled, but our guys were composed on the sideline. Whatever the adversity, you’ve got to stay in it and believe in each other. We came through. I’m proud of our guys.”
The marker just before the end of regulation time was netted by Alex Tougher after a free kick by teammate Milos Grahovac.
Then, about half way through the second 10-minute overtime period, Newman’s Ethan Bastarache raced down the wing with possession and launched what proved to be the winning goal.
“I saw the goalie was out of the net,” Bastarache said. “I caught him off guard. I just ended up finishing the shot … all that matters is getting the win. More is always a tough team.”
Commenting on the deciding goal, Moretuzzo said: “It was not so much a long shot or a hard shot. He just placed it in the corner. I was afraid that he was going to try to hammer it and the wind would keep the ball in the air. It was crazy wind. The wind was obviously a big factor in the game.”
Bastarache also took the corner which lanky outside defender Jack Skublak converted into a goal, deadlocking the score at 1-1 mid way through the second half.
St. Thomas More, silver medalists at the OFSAA tournament last year, got on the board first on a perfectly-placed top corner shot from a 25-yard free kick by Ryan Raposo. That came just two minutes into the contest.
“The kid is a great player,” Moretuzzo said.
Raposo then put the Knights ahead 2-1 with a spectacular individual effort. The clock showed about five minutes remaining when he outmanoeuvred several defenders in close before scoring on Newman netminder Tyler Major.
“Ryan worked his socks off for that goal,” Knights coach and former Newman student Marinus Meulendyks said. “We were just minutes away from lifting the Cup. Then, just like that, it’s gone.
“You’ve got to play it out – all 80 or this time 90 minutes.”
Meulendyks said the Knights got caught up field on the winning goal.
“They caught us on a counter,” he said. “We lost our marking in the back.
“Their strength is set pieces and it showed. Both of their first two goals came from set pieces. They are very good in the air.”
Despite the loss, the Knights still have a chance to return to OFSAA. More, however, will need a road victory in the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference playoff against Oakville’s Holy Trinity Titans Thursday.
“We’re still alive,” Meulendyks said. “We’ll take this and learn from it.”
For the first-place Cardinals, the win was their ninth straight after beginning the regular season with a 3-2 overtime loss against the Bishop Ryan Celtics.
“We’ve come a long way this year from our first game to this point,” Moretuzzo said.
Newman blanked More 2-0 in their regular-season meeting last month.