Led by the one-two offensive punch of Shawn Wilcox and Brandon Moxam, with Nick Filipetto controlling and distributing through the midfield in front of a solid backline, and backstopped by netminder Connor Vande Weghe, the Bears picked up their second consecutive city title in impressive fashion.
Coach Giuseppe Politi and company racked up eight consecutive victories, outscoring the opposition 22-1 and culminating their local run with a 2-0 whitewash of the Lockerby Vikings Wednesday in the city final.
After Tayte Kosmerly of Lockerby enjoyed the best scoring chance in the first 10 minutes, spinning from 15 yards out and rifling a shot just wide, the St. Benedict crew went to work on the turf at the James Jerome Sports Complex.
Wilcox showcased his fleet foot movement in the 13th minute, dancing through a trio of defenders and getting a shot away that keeper Roberto Bagnato punched wide. Unfortunately for the Vikes, the ensuing corner kick would break the ice on the scoresheet, as the ball bounced twice on the turf, directly to the well-positioned Wilcox, who struck it home from the far side with ease.
The Vikings had the door opened for one more opportunity late in the opening 40, as a long pass was touched just to the outside of the right goal post by forward Zachary Nault. Sensing a chance to truly put the game away, the Bears wasted little time in the second half.
Just one minute in, Filipetto played a through ball to Wilcox, who out-jostled a Lockerby defender, forcing Bagnato to come up with a big save once again. The game plan worked even better on their very next offensive foray, as Wilcox was taken down in the box, with the penalty kick almost a foregone conclusion as the league's leading scorer drilled home a little insurance.
To their credit, the Lockerby lads never relented, with Josh Alvarenga striking the bottom bar of the field goal post, less than a foot above the top soccer crossbar, off a direct kick from 28 yards out in the 58th minute.
Coming off an antique bronze performance at OFSAA in 2013, the Bears were a motivated squad this spring.
"We are trying to do just as well as we did last year," said Moxam after the city final. "We would like to reach that level again, and hopefully reach the OFSAA final."
A 16-year-old Grade 10 student, Moxam is receiving on-field mentorship simply by virtue of playing alongside the league's most natural goal scorer in Wilcox.
"He uses his speed really well," said Moxam, who has amassed double digits in assists this year, playing to the talented striker.
"He shoots on every opportunity he has — I need to learn to do that more."
With both St. Benedict and Lockerby already guaranteed their berths in NOSSA on Friday, both coaches faced a dilemma.
"A lot of guys were banged up today, so I held back a few of the starters," said Paul Hatzis from Lockerby. "Knowing that we were going to NOSSA, we had to make some tough choices."
While the St. Benedict boys were on everyone's radar right out of the gate, the same could not be said for the Lockerby Vikings girls team, which also captured a SDSSAA banner on Wednesday.
The Vikings, who were undefeated in the regular season, finishing in third place with a record of 3-0-3, scored just enough to provide support to their stifling defensive efforts, blanking the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes 2-0 in the gold-medal game.
The contest was waged largely in the middle of the field early on, with no particularly threatening attacks through the opening 30 minutes. Even a direct kick from Brianne Rodrigue in the 31st minute, and another solid shot from Courtney Sauvé late in the half were handled comfortably by Lockerby keeper Karli Shell.
But with less than 30 seconds to play in the half, Lockerby caught a break. A scramble in tight to netminder Josée Scott would see the ball somehow pop loose to Molly Miller, giving the Vikes a 1-0 lead.
And, as would be the case in the boys' encounter, an early second-half tally sealed the deal, with Riley McEwen finding room down the right side of the pitch and hitting the far corner with a well-placed shot.
The Alouettes countered somewhat, with Rodrigue drifting a shot wide in the 72nd minute, while one final battle in the box whistled down after contact was made with Shell in the dying minutes.
Perhaps because there was not a true powerhouse among the Premier girls field this year, the Vikings were as tentative as league observers in trying to get a feel for who might ultimately emerge as city champions.
"I did not think that we were going to do as well as we had in past years," acknowledged midfielder Mackenzie Bell, a solidifying presence for the Vikings through the interior of the pitch. "I'm so proud of our team. I can't believe that we did this."
Truth be told, there were some signs heading into the post-season, as Lockerby limited opponents to a league-best two goals against in six regular season games, with Shell and company posting three more shutouts in the playoffs.
"I think we worked more as a team, instead of individually," said Bell. "We may not have the most talented team, but that didn't matter for us. We did this together."
The surprising Vikings will now have a chance to earn a berth in OFSAA, though it won't be easy, mixing in a one-game playdown in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday following the completion of NOSSA track and field today in the Soo for a handful of their athletes.
"I don't think the girls initially thought we had a chance of going to NOSSA, but now that we've won cities and improved so much, I think they're really wanting it," said Bell. "I hope that we can step it up again at NOSSA."
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