It came right down to the wire. Hay River’s Diamond Jenness Secondary School (DJSS) defeated St. Pat’s High School of Yellowknife in the boys ‘A’ division of the Elks Outdoor Soccer Tournament over the weekend, ending a multi-year draught with what many called a big upset.The game was tied at 1-1 after 60 minutes, forcing five minutes of overtime. Even that wasn’t enough to settle the score, and the contest came down to a shootout, with Daniel Huang of DJSS netting the winning goal to clinch the victory.
“It was a very good, strong game all around, even for St Pat’s. They didn’t have enough players to switch off, but they played really hard,” said DJSS coach Alex Pinto.
It was an incredibly tight game, with both sides taking turns cranking up the pressure.
About halfway through the first half, Melsik Balasanyan broke through DJSS defenders to put the first point on the board for St. Pat’s. That goal was followed by a flurry of other close chances for the Yellowknife team.
In one rush at the net, two opposing players tangled, with DJSS drawing a yellow card. Yellowknife player Nathan Houghton was red carded and ejected from the game.
Despite being a player short, St. Pat’s was leading 1-0 heading into half time, and coach Pinto said that’s when the DJSS boys really had to focus.
“It was pretty well going back and forth in the first half,” he said. “The guys just had to regroup and work on their passing game.”
The team came out strong in the second, playing a more controlled game and were rewarded when Earl Rettle managed to get a ball in St. Pat’s net.
“It was a big relief,” Rettle said. “The first half was lots of pressure from St. Pat’s.”
Even with the extra hustle by the DJSS players, neither team could capitalize on the plenty of scoring chances each produced. St. Pat’s goalie put himself on the line repeatedly, forcing the game into five minutes of overtime.
“In the second half, we were basically 60 to 70 per cent in their end. We had more chances; we just couldn’t put it in. That’s why it went to overtime. We had our chances. We just missed them all,” Pinto said
Finally, with both teams exhausted, the refs called for a kickoff. Both teams went back and forth, each scoring and missing some shots until Huang stepped up and found the back of the net to end the game.
“There was a lot of pressure,” he said. “You get scared that you’re going to miss. I felt relieved and excited.”
The St. Pat’s players, admittedly disappointed, were quick to congratulate their opponents on a game well played.
“It, uh, well it sucked, like it would for anyone,” said St. Pat’s player Dylan Colborne. “But at the same time, it’s a competition, and competition can go either way. A lot of us might have been tired, but the game was pretty equal. I think they showed some good sportsmanship and they brought it back.”
His teammate Austin Miller said, even with the red card, they didn’t feel any hard feelings.
“I think we played well. I think (the red card) kind of made us stronger knowing we were a man down. In the earlier game, we had a red card against us, and it made us play better. I don’t think it affected us that much,” Miller said.
The DJSS boys were the only Hay River team to earn a win in a gold medal game, but they weren’t the only ones to get there.
Ecole Boreale took on Yellowknife’s J.H. Sissions in the 11-12-year-old girls’ final at the Tri-Service Field, but fell 2-1 to earn the silver medal.
The Ecole Boreale 11-12-year-old boys finished fourth to Fort Resolution’s Deninu School by a score of 7-0.
– Jesse Winter