After a 16-year wait to make it on the podium at the SHSAA 3A boys’ soccer provincials, the Carlton Crusaders have now won a medal in consecutive years.
Thanks to a 4-2 win over the Swift Current Colts Saturday afternoon in Saskatoon, the Crusaders were able to capture their second straight bronze medal.
They topped the Yorkton Raiders in a 2-1 affair last fall in Yorkton.
“When we started to reach the provincials on a consistent basis seven years ago, our goal was to try and reach that top four, “ Crusaders head coach Mark Odnokon said. “It was a challenge at first to do that when we’d matchup with the top teams from Regina and Saskatoon, but now where’s at point where we expect to be in the medal round.
“The guys that have been here for the last four years have put in a lot of hard work to reach their goals and bring our team up in the mix provincially.”
Kenan Ibrisimovic led the way in the bronze medal game with a pair of goals, while Ben Grassick and Cedric Ndabungwe also found the back of the net for the Crusaders.
Felix Danquah and Joel Reimer responded for the Colts.
“Everybody got to play in that game and it was a great performance from our team,” Odnokon said.
“This year’s team was a little bit different from last year’s team that won a bronze medal as we had some much variety in our lineup. We had such a skilled roster that we were able to move guys into a defensive role if we need to shut thing down or move them up the pitch if we needed to get our offence going.”
The Crusaders opened up the tournament with a 4-1 triumph Friday against the Campbell Tartans of Regina in the quarter-final round.
“We’ve run into Campbell quite a lot lately, but we were able to beat them pretty handily,” Odnokon said.
Eric Rugabisha had a pair of goals in that contest, which also saw Ibrisimovic and Joseph Tikaali score.
Fardin Azizi countered for the Tartans.
The Crusaders run at a provincial title came to an end in the semifinal round as they dropped a 4-0 affair to the top-ranked Centennial Chargers of Saskatoon.
“They are head and shoulders above anyone in the province,” Odnokon said. “It’s too bad that we ended up in the same bracket as them, as I think we could have had a legit chance of winning a silver medal.
“We got down early after we gave up a penalty kick to them and it’s so hard to try and catch up with Centennial when you are pushing hard to try and even the score. However, I think we gave them their toughest test of the weekend.”
Luke Mackie had a pair of goals to lead the way for the Chargers, who topped the Warman Wolverines in a 9-0 rout Saturday to win their second straight gold medal.
Daniel Jimine and Ethan May-George also scored in their semifinal triumph.
With a roster that featured many senior players, the Crusaders will have a different look to their lineup next fall as they try to win a medal for the third straight year.
“We started 10 graduating players in the bronze medal game Saturday so there’s going to be a lot of turnover,” Odnokon said.
“However, there’s a lot of skill with our younger guys as they’ll step up into larger roles. We were in this situation four years ago as well when the guys that are graduating first started playing high school soccer.”
Marauders building towards the future
The St. Mary Marauders found themselves on the outside looking in for the 3A provincial tournament this year, as they suffered a 4-0 loss to the Wolverines during a regional semifinal game in Warman on Oct. 19.
“It was actually a scoreless game at halftime and we had one or two chances to take the lead on them as we were carrying the run of play,” Marauders head coach Dwayne Gareau said.
“However, our inexperience with a youthful squad showed up in the second half. We made a few mistakes and they were able to score three goals in a 15-minute span to pull away.”
Despite an early finish to the season, Gareau is excited about what’s in store next year for the Marauders, as they only graduate three players from this season’s lineup.
“It is always a positive when you can gain experience from being in a win or you’re out format,” Gareau said. “We’re hoping that our returning players can build off of that as they get older.”