It’s no secret that the wealth of players to choose from for any Prince Rupert rep team often leaves much to be desired compared to some more populous B.C. towns.
But that didn’t stop Cullen Riley and the rest of the Under-17 eager Rupert youth, whose desire to bring down Terrace on the soccer pitch drove them to create a squad that would almost bring the B.C.’s top team to its knees at provincials in Richmond in early July.
“In Prince Rupert, we don’t really have rep teams so when you get one going you don’t have a lot to choose from because we don’t actually have that many people who actually play competitive soccer who want to, so when you select people, it’s like OK, we’ll work with what we have,” said Riley.
And what they had was good enough to be one minute away from topping the eventual Under-17 champions, Saanich Fusion after beating Terrace during Northwest zones.
“We should have won,” said Riley.
“They scored an offside goal with a minute left in the game. The linesman put his flag up and the referee overruled it. He was on the centre-line and said ‘no, it’s not offside’ and the linesman had the better view but whatever. We were all a little angry about that.”
Every match, save for the Saanich game, which ended 1-1, was played on a grass field, something the Rupertites weren’t used to, having typically played most of their matches with the Prince Rupert Youth Soccer Association at Charles Hays field, a turf pitch.
“It’s so different when you play on grass. When you pass the ball it doesn’t go as far … we got so used to turf and then when you play on grass it’s a way different calibre of soccer,” said the centre midfielder.
Shutout losses to Richmond, Coquitlam and Columbia had the Fusion at first, overconfident versus the Northwest zone winners, then reeling once Rupert took it to them.
“We played Saanich on turf and they were like ‘who the hell are these kids?’,” said Riley.
At zones, the Ruperities downed Terrace, 3-1 in their first game, and tied them, 0-0 in the second, advancing on goal differential.
Paul Cavin and Riley hooked up to tie the affair at one after Terrace opened the scoring in the opening match.
Karan Gill and Tyler Matalone added singles for the win.
Cullen’s dad, Peter, the coach of the team, thanked the squad’s sponsors for helping send them to provincials and Cullen added his appreciation.
“If we didn’t have those sponsors, we probably wouldn’t have went,” said Cullen.
“They meant so much.”