Having already secured the league championship, Ponoka’s Storm FC men’s soccer team is headed to repeating last year’s double-trophy victory after defeating Diablos of Wetaskiwin 6-2 in the Battle River Cup semi-final on Sunday, Aug. 16 at the Ponoka Secondary Campus soccer field.
The game started under cloudy skies with a cool breeze as both teams began to test each other’s defenses, with Ponoka guys struggling to set a consistent pace in moving the ball on the pitch. As both teams tried to create scoring opportunities, it was the hosts who found the first goal when Christoph Dittmar converted a penalty in the 15th minute, awarded after Eric Escheid was brought down in the 18-yard box by Diablos defense.
The goal, however, fired up Diablos, who stepped up their game, with the whole team putting pressure on Ponoka players. Particularly the defensive of effort by the offensive trio of the Diablos made life difficult for Ponoka midfielders as they struggled to pass in the face of man-to-man pressure from Diablos.
The visitors’ pressure yielded the result they were after when they earned back-to-back corner kicks and one of them led to an equalizer about midway through the first half. The rest of the first 45 mins. went on with Ponoka defenders trying to stop Diablos from gaining the lead and they managed to do that with first half ending in a tie: 1-1.
During the halftime, the clouds gave way to the sun as if heralding a change of fortunes for the hosts.
Just three minutes into the second half, Dittmar scored his second goal from close range just outside the six-yard box: 2-1. In another ten minutes, Jarret (the Bullet) Henderson, still a U-18 player and the newest addition to the team, blew like a wind from the right corridor and struck from the corner of the 18-yard box: 3-1. Five minutes later, Dittmar once again found the back of the Diablos net: 4-1.
Diablos needed and wanted to stay in the game and they continued to fight: Two minutes after the completion of Dittmar’s hat-trick, they scored to keep their hopes alive: 4-2.
But Storm were in no mood to let their lead slip away, they kept attacking. Escheid’s close header three minutes after Diablos’ goal was deflected by the cross bar. A few minutes later, Dittmar scored once again from a free-kick about five yards outside the 18-yard box: 5-2.
Then it was up to Escheid to close the curtain in the final minute of the game with a close range shot: 6-2.
Storm coach Lonny Behm was not happy with the first half performance of the team, which he described as “sloppy.” “I didn’t like it,” he said. “We couldn’t string passes together.”
But he was satisfied with the second half execution of the game plan. “We did well in the second,” he said.
Storm will now face Manluk in Wetaskiwin on Sunday Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. in a repeat of the last year’s Battle River Cup final. Manluk is reported to have asked for rescheduling of the game time, but there was no word at press time as to whether the game time might change.