Hotter than normal temperatures and getting used to dry, grass fields weren’t enough to deter the Prince Rupert Football Club Boys Under-16 Select Team from a great showing versus inter-provincial competition at the Slurpee Cup.
The team, who has been together for three years on the North Coast, travelled to the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association (KYSA) Slurpee Cup during the May long weekend and won silver in the ultra-competitive under-16 boys division. Coached by Gordon Armstrong and filled with players ranging in age from 14- to 16-years-old, the team brought home an overall record of 2-1-1, with their only loss coming in the final game against a Langley team that scouted them out before their actual match, 3-1.
“The Langley coach pointed out to me ‘Yeah, we watched your games. You don’t score 11 goals and not have us pay attention,” Armstrong said after the tournament.
The Langley bench boss was referring to the 6-0 and 5-0 drubbing that the Prince Rupert Football Club (PRFC) laid on the Kelowna Westside Lakers and Kelowna United teams respectively in the round robin.
In their first match, the one where the thermometer reached 28 degrees, the Rupert boys sweated out a 3-3 tie versus Vernon. Not only did the heat take some getting used to, but the grass pitch also created some problems early on for the squad.
“We’re a turf team. The grass is about 15 per cent slower, so about five or six times in the game, our boys would trip and fall over the soccer ball because the ball wouldn’t sit where it normally would. So a light touch that they would take on turf, the ball would come back into their feet and they’d fall over it,” Armstrong said.
But very soon, the Lower Mainland competition quickly learned not to underestimate the northern coastal players, who breezed through the rest of the round robin.
In the gold medal game, Rupert’s pressure-driven offense was stymied by the Langley side.
“We play a 4-3-3 system and we push a very high line and create a lot of pressure forward. But the reason we can do that is because we have some very talented defencemen – very fast. Our wide-outs just absolutely did a number on the teams this weekend,” the coach said.
“[The Langley coach] told me after the game ‘We shut down those guys on the side and we made your guy in the middle have to go work for the ball, and we knew we could take care of that. So they took away our wide-outs.”
Despite playing within a much shorter season compared to the Kelownas or the Vernons of the province, the northern players did their city proud at the competition. To get the same amount of competitive action, the team has to travel far more, and far further than those in southern B.C.
“It’s an amazingly skilled team,” said the coach.
PRFC’s main competition, the Terrace under-17 squad, which is a top-three team in B.C., are the most familiar foes for the team. Many elite Terrace and Kitimat youth play on that Terrace team. They also play Smithers frequently and left for zones this past weekend to face off against the northwest teams.
Another northwest squad that showed well in Kamloops was the Terrace under-13 boys team that took gold against St. Albert Impact #2.