Hope Secondary’s Mustang boys soccer teams are fighting an uphill battle — but according to junior coach Andrew Tarrant they’re having a good time on the climb.
Down-valley schools have a great advantage in drawing players with lots of club soccer experience, while Hope only has a few that have continued past the Hope Minor Soccer level, which ends at grade seven.
The juniors discovered the disparity in their first game of the season, visiting Vedder Middle School last Thursday.
How was the team’s first game, in Tarrant’s first year as a coach?
“It depends if you care about the score line — but we had an absolute blast!” said Tarrant, who is a local social worker and pastor of the Hope Church of the Nazarene.
“The kids were hooting on the sideline, even though we were losing 7-nil at the half. We were under constant pressure in the first half but in the second half, we actually had some offensive forays.
“Despite losing by at least 10, I was floating when I got off the bus in Hope. We stopped for slurpies on the way back and the boys were really excited.”
Tarrant, who grew up playing the game in Scotland, is new to Hope and relished the chance to coach a high school team.
“Kyle Kjemhus had mentioned the opportunity, if I was interested. I had been a youth worker in Surrey before coming here and I thought it would be a good way to get to know the kids of the community.
“The thing I find hardest to coach is how to have game awareness and how to play their positions, when they haven’t had much experience,” said the coach. “We’ll figure it out, though.
“A lot of them are grade eights, so we’ll have lots of returning players next year.”
The juniors’ opponents are all Chilliwack public schools: Vedder Middle, Slesse Middle, Chilliwack Middle and G.W. Graham. They had their first home game — against CMS — today (Wednesday) and will next host Vedder on the 19th and Graham on the 24th.
Senior coach, Geordie Webber, agrees that heading down-river has its challenges.
“This year, all the teams look tough, at least on paper,” he said Monday, before Tuesday’s home-opener against D.W. Poppy. “Last year, there were a couple of weaker teams that we could be competitive with… Aldergrove for example, but they don’t have a team this year.”
Last Tuesday, the senior boys traveled to Abbotsford Traditional for their first game of the season.
“The first thirty minutes were great,” recalled Webber. “We were down 1-0 and they had more chances — but we had some. Then they scored two more in the last 10 minutes of the half, coming in the same way.
“It was rough for the first 30 minutes of the second half,” he added. “We’d get possession and start to work down field and they’d hit us and knock us over. The ref would call it but by that time, they’d be back and all set up for us.
“There was one that happened right in front of me, where Brandon Stewart was elbowed in the head but the call went against us. I had no idea there was a penalty for heading someone on the elbow….”
The score ended 6-0, though Hope almost broke the shut-out late in the game when Colin Webber drilled a free kick at the goal from 30 paces out. The Abbotsford keeper clumsily bobbled it twice before knocking it out of touch.
“I don’t think I could fault Brendan Sullivan on any of the goals we let in,” said the coach. “He’s very brave and he’ll challenge any ball. He’s got good hands from playing basketball.”
Webber added, “We’re starting to get a sense of where our team-mates should be — but we’ve got to be more precise in our passing. A few metres off-target and the ball is coming back at us.”
The next scheduled home game for the senior boys is October 25, versus G.W. Graham.