He picked the worst-ever October for Hope Secondary’s first-ever boys’ soccer tournament — but coach Jeremy Smith came up with a miracle last weekend.
Though the region posted 28 days with rain last month, Hope Secondary was blessed with one of October’s three dry days being on the opening day of the tournament, with sun and blue skies showcasing Hope’s natural beauty. Even when the clouds socked in on Saturday, it was only the last three of the tournament’s 27 games that got rained on.
“It was a little risky, having the tournament that late — but it worked,” said Smith on Sunday, Oct. 30.
At last spring’s girls’ tournament, Smith came up with a nine-team format that he ported over to the boys’ event. “The three teams that I thought would be stronger were divided into different pools,” he said, “then in the second round, the first-place from one pool would play second-place from another and third-place from the other pool.”
Friday saw four 40-minute games for each team, with two pitches used at Hope Secondary and one more at the old C.E. Barry site. To prevent blowouts, teams were warned they would lose a point if they won by more than a four-goal differential. None pushed past that mark. By Saturday morning, there were three tiers with three well-matched teams in each tier.
Hope was placed in the third tier with Merritt and Mount Currie’s Xit’olacw (“Zee-toe-LACK-wa”).
“I thought Saturday’s would be the closest games, so I made them longer (60 minutes),” said Smith, the school’s foods teacher and athletics coordinator. “As it turned out, three of the nine games went to shootouts on Saturday.”
Hope had narrowly lost in two shoot-outs on Friday, so Smith had the boys practicing their penalty kicks before meeting Merritt for Saturday’s closing game — but by the way the match started, it wasn’t looking like there would be any need for a tiebreaker.
Merritt took advantage of some defensive breakdowns to take a 2-0 lead into half time. Early in the second half, Hunter Peters placed a corner kick on Matteo Bobb’s head and the ball firmly found the net to put Hope on the board. Dustin Keyes followed with the tying goal at 10 minutes into the half, after the ball was bouncing around in Merritt’s penalty area for perhaps 10 touches.
Merritt went ahead again, with a breakaway goal six minutes later — but Bobb connected on a low cross at 20 minutes and the game ended 3-3, forcing a penalty kick shoot-out. Meanwhile, the game for first and second place had just ended in a shootout, with Unity Christian edging out Chilliwack Secondary. Of note, Chilliwack Secondary’s community coach was Shalene Sherman, a 2009 grad of HSS.
Dustin Wutzke, Hunter Peters, Joseph Tuivai and Jacob Chisholm knocked their shots past Merritt’s Abraham Jackson — and Mustang keeper Ben Gladue had stopped Merritt’s second shooter. The visitor’s fifth shooter had to score to keep his team in the contest. He did.
It was down to Aaron Striker to salt it away… and he rang a hard shot off the post and out.
Merritt’s sixth shooter chipped a shot over the net and Bobb’s shot was saved, then Gladue stopped Merritt’s seventh shooter and it was down to Keyes, who drove a hard shot through Jackson’s grip for the winner.
The victory gave Hope a seventh-place finish and good boost to their confidence after a tough season in the inter-school league.
“Next year, we’ll try to do friendlies and tournaments,” said Smith. “The boys’ skills don’t grow in league play, as they’re always on the defensive.”
Wutzke and Devon Higginbottom were named as Hope’s MVPs for the tournament, though Smith gave special mention to Gladue, their first-year goalie.
“Ben was probably our most-improved player this season,” said Smith. “He’s figured out how to own the net.”
Gladue’s mom, Anna — a 1994 HSS grad — said Monday, “I’m a first-time senior boys soccer mom and I just can’t believe the amount of time and effort Jeremy Smith put into the season. He goes completely above and beyond his official duties as a teacher.
“He consistently brings out the best in his players and he has something positive to say about each one individually.
“I have been completely blown away by Jeremy’s time commitment, his enthusiasm and his ability to be a coach and move these boys forward with a plan to win.
“He said himself, they went from a damage-control team to offensive players and as a parent I couldn’t be more pleased. Not one player seemed to feel left out or not played or any of those other awful things that go with team sports. He really brought out camaraderie with these gentlemen.
“I’ve heard kids say ‘I can’t wait for next season’ before this season was even into playoffs,” said Anna. “I look forward to what next year has to offer, too.”