Tillsonburg BDR International U16 boys soccer game needed a win Wednesday night in their final game of the Western Ontario Youth Soccer League.
At stake was promotion into the Ontario Youth Soccer League which is 'top of the pyramid' for youth soccer in the province. Competing in boys and girls divisions from U14 to U18, the OYSL league only includes teams promoted from the top regional leagues.
It was a complicated scenario. Second-place Tillsonburg went into Wednesday's showdown at home to third-place Waterloo United carrying a two-point advantage. With three points awarded for a win, a loss to Waterloo would have KO'd Tillsonburg's hopes for promotion. A tie would have jeopardized it – Waterloo would trail by two points, still having a chance to overtake Tillsonburg in its final game.
North London, who were upset 3-2 by Marconi Tuesday night, were still in the mix, leading the division with 28 points going into Wednesday's game at the Tillsonburg Minor Soccer Park. A Tillsonburg loss would leave them two points back of North London. However, because North London already has an OSYL team in the same U16 age group, it would need to be determined if they could have two.
All of the 'what if' scenarios were swept aside Wednesday when the BDR International U16s came from behind to win 2-1, scoring the game-winner on an own goal with less than five minutes left in regulation time.
Tillsonburg left midfielder Eddie Richter, who had moved up into a striker role late in the game, orchestrated the winning goal.
"The ball came out of the air, and I touched it down," said Richter, describing the buildup. "Then I just pushed it as far as I could to get away from the whole crowd. Then I just ran, and chopped it back in when I could. As soon as I got within what I thought would be a good shooting range, I just sort of swung it at the net. It was from maybe a yard or two inside the 18."
Richter's shot deflected off a Waterloo defender and rolled over the goal-line, handcuffing the goalie who had no chance on the re-direction.
"It was going in the shortside, and he (the defender) just slid in, and put it in with a little extra. The goalie was sort of running out because he thought it was coming across for a pass."
The BDR U16s – and their fans – erupted in celebration.
But they still had two minutes to defend the one-goal lead. At stake, a clear-cut, undisputed shot at first overall in the division. A BDR win would vault them past North London, leave Waterloo behind, and take them into the OYSL – the very first Tillsonburg team to claim that honour in OYSL's 21-year history.
"It feels great," Richter grinned. "Knowing that we're one of the few teams, if not the only team, that's made it to L1."
Waterloo had struck first Wednesday night, scoring in the first minute.
"We took it back to kickoff, and our midfielder played the ball to the corner flag. I ran on to it, cut it in, played around the one guy, and Kody (Forde) passed it into the net."
Tillsonburg's Treven Vanderhaeghe led the division in scoring with 15 goals.
Playing their first season at the WOYSL L3 level, Richter said the team had focused a lot on fitness.
"(Coach) John always said, if we're not going to be as skilled as them, we want to be fit enough to play the whole game and get them at the end – sort of like we did today. We had a lot of games where the last minute's been our strong point, so we just kept battling."
Defensively, Tillsonburg led the division with the lowest goals against (1.00 GAA in 14 games), despite starting the season with two untested goalies.
"They trained hard and they definitely learned a lot and performed well this season. Saved a lot of shots."
Only six points – two wins – separated the top five teams, and sixth-place Kitchener was only two points below the Top 5. Parity was the rule for L3.
"The league's been weird that way – Waterloo beat North London 5-1, then lost 3-0. To win by four, then lose by three? The league's really close, that's all you can say."
OYSL presents another challenge for the BDR International U16s, who will have a two-week break before training resumes.
"In the winter we'll be in the gym working on fitness, touch, tactics..."
The U16 boys have added new players over the past two years in their climb from L5 to L3 to L1, and improved both individually and as a unit.
"I remember, even when John (Twinem) took over, the drills we were doing. We could barely do them – he was sort of frustrated with us and we didn't know what was going to happen. Now, we'll do the same drills and we can do that at really high intensity. And doing it at the grade John expects."
2014 BDR INTERNATIONAL U16s
Goalies - Steven Gilvesy, Rory Buchanan
Defenders - Justin Grundsell, Luuk Hoogenboom, Misho Galic, Jarred Wilcox, Sandro Palermo
Midfielders - Jackson Does, Austin Stone, Andrew Sykes, Aiden Barry, Treven Vanderhaeghe, David Ostojic, Zach Langley, Eddie Richter, Ben Groulx
Strikers - Liam Warnock, Kody Forde