The Bert Church Chargers boys’ soccer team earned its sixth win in six games May 23, with a 3-1 triumph over the George McDougall Mustangs at Monklands Park.
The victory in the all-Airdrie battle ensures the unbeaten team finishes the regular season in first place of the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) and will receive a bye through to the semi-finals of the division playoffs.
The Chargers’ dominance this spring has been par for the course for the team, according to senior player Quentin Martini. Bert Church is the two-time defending RVSA champion and is seeking a third consecutive division banner. The team has scored 27 goals this season, while conceding just five.
“We’ve been pretty consistent this year and last year,” Martini said. “We’re trying for the three-peat, so everyone has been putting in a lot of work. We’re all positive and we believe we can do it.”
Despite George McDougall’s loss, Mustangs head coach Dominic Harlowe-Lawrence said he was pleased with the effort his team put forward against the Chargers.
“That was easily the best performance the boys have put on all season – and against the strongest team in the league,” he said. “Nobody has really challenged Bert Church yet, so I’m very proud of what the boys pulled off today.”
After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, the action picked up in the second half. The Chargers broke the deadlock in the 49th minute with a goal from Gabe Martini after the Mustangs goalkeeper parried a shot to his left, where Martini was waiting to stab the rebounded ball into the net from close range.
Bert Church doubled its lead to 2-0 mid-way through the second half. Ketil Eckhardt received a pass on the edge of the Mustangs’ 18-yard box with his back to goal, then turned and fired a shot into the bottom right corner.
“We started off kind of slow,” Martini said. “We definitely weren’t playing our best soccer this year, but in the second half, we definitely picked it up and, overall, it wasn’t too bad of a game.”
Trailing by two, George McDougall refused to give up. Just a few minutes after Eckhardt’s tally, Mustangs player Colin Hughes scored on a long-range strike, belting a looping shot into the top corner.
“When he leans over the ball like that, he has a hell of a strike,” Harlow-Lawrence said. “It was a 35-yard goal, and I think that’s his second one of the season from that distance.”
Down 2-1, the Mustangs went into the final 20 minutes with increased energy in search of an equalizer. But any chance of a comeback was spoiled when Martini scored a header off a corner kick for Bert Church in the final 15 minutes.
“I saw the corner about to be taken and made a run to lose my defender at the back post,” Martini said. “Fortunately, I was free and able to get a good header on it to put it in.”
The defeat means George McDougall ends the regular season in fourth place of the RVSA with a 2-3-1 record. The team’s post-season started with a quarterfinal battle May 28 (after press time) against the third-place W.H. Croxford Cavaliers.
It was an enticing battle, as the two teams drew 4-4 in the first game of the season, with the Mustangs crawling back from a 4-0 deficit to escape with a point.
“I think the boys have grown so much,” said Mustangs captain Alex Thorpe. “Since then, I can see a huge improvement.
“Bert Church has been crushing teams all season, and I think we gave them a run for their money.”
The winner of the quarterfinal between W.H. Croxford and George McDougall will face the Chargers in the semi-final June 4 at Monklands Park – ensuring an Airdrie team will be in the RVSA championship game June 6, also at Monklands Park. The games are at 4:15 p.m.