Ponoka’s representatives in the Battle River Men’s Soccer League defeated Camrose 3-2 on Sunday, Aug. 17 to place themselves in this weekend’s final game in Wetaskiwin for the League Cup, only one week after winning the league championship.
Storm’s championship trophy was presented before the start of the game by Craig Kerridge, Battle River Soccer League administrator, who also officiated the semi-final.
It was a game to be watched with a high level of excitement and enthusiasm on the part of both teams that had a defeat at hands of each other during the regular season. It was clear that both sides were intent on making it to the final with the full roster on both sides having dressed to come out with a victory from the high school soccer pitch.
Storm started to test the skills of the Camrose goalkeeper early in the game with several shots from outside the 18-yard box but failed to score early in the game. The Ponoka team appeared to have set up its defensive line closer to the midfield rather than to their goal, a tactic which allowed them to keep the pressure on the visitors’ half of the field. The Camrose side, however, had a few very fast players.
Midway through the first half, Camrose used a momentary lapse in the Ponoka defense to sneak through the 18-yard box with one of their sprinters and scored from close range, taking a 1-0 lead.
After the goal, bolstered by their lead, the visitors stepped up pressure on the Ponoka goal and earned corner kick after corner kick with a view to expanding their margin. The Storm defense put up a great resistance with all the ears locked on the halftime whistle by the referee, which could not have come sooner.
The second half was a different story. Five minutes into the play, Eric Ehscheid just turned up in front of the 18-yard box of the Camrose goal and jumped over the goalie carrying the ball with him and scored the equalizer in a comfortable fashion, bringing a sigh of relief to both the Storm bench and to local fans watching the game under bright sunshine.
But more was to come: About six minutes after their first goal, the Storm were awarded a penalty thanks to a foul committed by the Camrose defense in the 18-yard box and Christoph Dittmar converted the shot in smooth sailing, making it 2-1 for the hosts.
Just about 10 minutes later, Dittmar, receiving a long pass from the Ponoka defense, again turned up just outside the penalty area of the Camrose side and despite the efforts of the goalie to go forward to block his shot, scored from just inside the box, opening the lead to two goals.
Camrose, however, were not in a mood to give in. Ten minutes after they fell behind by two points, Camrose managed to find another loophole in Ponoka’s defense and scored from close range to keep their chances alive: 3-2.
From that moment on, the game was a nailbiter for not only both benches but also for fans with Camrose keeping on attacking and Ponoka defense thwarting them and at times creating opportunities for the Storm offense. About five minutes from regulation, a long shot from Dittmar went just a few inches over the crossbar. Ponoka defense managed to keep their posture until the final whistle and won the game to continue their celebrations having received the league championship trophy.
Storm will now face Leduc or Manluk in the cup final at 6 p.m. in Wetaskiwin on Sunday, Aug. 24.