MAPLE RIDGE -– The fields have officially been cleared for play and the season kicked off Tues., May 1 for the North Dundas District High School (NDDHS) Devils boys’ and girls’ soccer teams with a flurry of games in the first week. 

The compact schedule saw the senior boys team play half of their scheduled 10 games in the first week and the rainy weather hasn’t helped the Devils squad much either as all of their practices had to be held indoors with the fields unplayable until the first day of the schedule.

For Kevin Bell, coach of the junior and senior boys’ squads, how to manage a front-loaded schedule will be key.

“It’s a huge challenge. You watch a game, you analyze how your team has played and then you want to practice and make those adjustments. Whether it be personnel adjustments in different spots or changes in our formation or how we’re going to move the ball, but when you just don’t have those opportunities to do that, you just talk about it and you don’t get to see it in action,” he said. “It’s demanding on the kids as well. Their bodies aren’t in game shape yet and for them to be asked to play, and some of the fields aren’t quite ready yet, it takes a toll on the body too.” 

Senior boys
Despite some of the challenges, the senior Devils have managed to keep their heads just above water in the first five games with a win, two losses and two ties.

They opened their season at home with a pair of games versus Tagwi and Seaway. The Devils came out on the wrong end of 2-1 score in a tight match against Tagwi and if it weren’t for a few unlucky bounces, could easily have been a victory.

Senior Devils keeper Matthew Roach made the save in second half play versus Tagwi on the opening day of the high school soccer season. Press Photo– Schoch

“A disappointing result, but I can’t be disappointed with how the guys played. They played well. It was an up and down game. We had opportunities to finish, but we also didn’t get the breaks we needed,” said Bell. “If I played it a little differently I would do more of a run-and-gun type of offence because some of their defence seemed a little slow. We did have some opportunities when we chipped the ball over their heads, but got caught on a few offside calls. If we would have had two or three of those go our way it could have been a different score in the end.” 

The Devils managed a 2-2 tie in the second game versus Seaway. Ian Koch got NDDHS off to a quick 1-0 lead, but Seaway eventually took control and managed to hold onto a 2-1 lead late into the second half. Cam Cotnam scored the equalizer with little time left to give the Devils a hard earned draw.

Fri., May 4 provided the senior boys with a stiff challenge as they traveled to Char-Lan for a triple-header.

The Devils managed to hold a strong Char-Lan squad scoreless until the 48th minute and eventually ended up dropping a 3-0 decision in their first game of the day.

The second game finally rewarded Bells’ squad with a more favourable result as they defeated St. Lawrence 4-3. Joseph Seguin, Peter Xidias, Cam Cotnam and Ian Koch each scored to deliver the first win of the season.

With almost no gas left in the tank and only one substitution available by the end of the game, the senior devils managed to hold Holy Trinity to a 1-1 draw as Cam Cotnam scored on their only opportunity.

The senior boys play their next game at the friendly confines of Maple Ridge Fri., May 11 versus St. Joe’s and La Citadelle.

Junior boys
This year’s team doesn’t have a lot of experience and nerves played a factor in their opening game, a 4-0 loss on Tues., May 1 versus Char-Lan.

“I think we had a lot of jitters in the first 10 minutes or so. A lot of young guys who haven’t really played all that much soccer so we went into a defensive shell and held them off the board for a little bit. By the end of the half we were starting to find our own way a little bit more and get some opportunities, but we were down 2-0,” said Bell. “Obviously when you’re down 2-0 you want to press a little bit so we changed the formation up. It created a lot more opportunities, but we just couldn’t finish and then they would counter on us. It wasn’t really an indication of it being that one-sided, but the score obviously seems to show that.”

Their second game of the season wouldn’t get any easier as they faced a finely tuned St. Joe’s team.   

“The guys came off playing much better but, St. Joe’s across the board is a very skilled team and distribute it very well for a junior squad. The guys held their own,” said Bell. 

Despite a better start, the junior Devils fell 5-0, but Bell was quick to praise the play of their first-year keeper.

“He’s a big kid and has a booming kick. He was a force to be reckoned with. Just a little more polish he’ll be even more of a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

The junior boys wrapped up the first week of the schedule with a positive result; a 2-2 tie versus Holy Trinity. The Devils were down 2-0 early, but clawed their way back with a close-range strike from Curtis Bowman to make it 2-1. Curtis Bell slipped in behind their backs late in the game and squeaked the ball past the Holy Trinity keeper to give the Devils their first point of the season.

Junior girls
With no senior team this year, coach Kelly Durant has focused her efforts on the junior team.

They had a tough first outing with a 10-0 loss against last years EOSSAA silver medalist, L’Heritage, who lost very few players from last years roster. L’Heritage got four goals from Brianna Brioche, while Audrey Mallette, Elizabeth Wood and Bridget Lefebvre all scored twice.

The Devils second game was much more evenly matched with a 2-0 loss against St. Joes. The Panthers scored on a penalty kick resulting from a dangerous kick within the box and on a direct kick as a result of a hand-ball within the box. Durant praised goalkeeper Allison Roach’s excellent play in both games and said, “the girls showed some nice potential.”

Thurs., May 3 the girls played Holy Trinity in a rain soaked game, but once again ended up on the wrong end of a 7-0 score.

“Once again, Allison Roach had an awesome game. The score could have been so much higher. We played a team made up of mostly club players, but the girls spirits stayed high and they are a delight to spend time with on the pitch,” said Durant.

The junior boys and girls will next see action on Tues., May 15 in Char-Lan.