Hinton FC battle back for provincial berth

Tyler Waugh

Ralph Underwood didn’t feel right cheering against somebody at soccer zones, but the Hinton FC U17 boys coach thought desperate times called for desperate measures.

With a potential provincial championships berth on the line and a 3-2 loss  against Whitecourt to open the playdowns, his Hinton FC U17 boys soccer squad needed help from Edson, of all teams.

If Edson could beat Whitecourt in the second game of the day, then Hinton still had a chance to beat Edson later in the day to win a tiebreaker and go to provincials.

“We needed Edson to win to have a shot, and it’s tough sitting there watching and not having control over your fate. Couldn’t help it, definitely found myself cheering pretty hard for Edson,” Underwood said.

Things didn’t look good early as Whitecourt took a 2-1 lead into half, though the momentum turned early in the second half. In fact, it almost turned too much as Edson scored five unanswered goals to win 6-2 and create a larger goal differential than Hinton had bargained for going into the final game … meaning not only would Hinton have to beat Edson, they would have to beat them by at least three goals to win outright.

“Yeah, may have cheered for Edson a little too well. Actually started cheering for Whitecourt for a bit there at the end when Edson kept scoring,” Underwood said with a laugh adding that, while the goal differential would be a big hurdle, it was a huge boost to  not be eliminated and control their own destiny.

“It was big … having that last game of the day and knowing what you needed to do to win. The kids went from being dejected, thinking they were out of it, to having a chance. This could be their last year of soccer for some of them … having their potential last game mean something meant a lot.”

Hinton took hold of the game early, building leads of 1-0 and then 2-1 going into the half, meaning they were still two goals from the three-goal differential they needed to take top spot in the tie-breaker.

Hinton continued to push with a couple more goals in the second half, holding on for the 4-1 win. Tyler Clark had two goals, Joel Sunderwald had one and Evan Goulet scored one as well. 

Hinton earned the right to represent the Northwest Soccer Association at the Tier IV Rural Girls and Boys provincial tournament July 5 – 7 at Mount Park Sports Fields in Fort Saskatchewan.

Hinton dominated in the league play during the regular season, but couldn’t find that same level of success against competition in tournaments at Camrose and Sherwood Park.

Underwood says that for the team to succeed at provincials it’ll come down to chemistry and team play.

“This is a hardworking, good crew of players with a lot of passion for the game. We aren’t necessarily going to match up player for player talent wise with some of these teams at provincials,” he said.

Hinton FC is the only local team to advance to provincials, but certainly not the only team to medal at their respective Soccerfest zone tournaments. The U15 boys came out on top of a three-way tiebreaker to earn silver. The U15 girls rode the home field advantage to beat Jasper 3-2 to earn bronze at Mary Reimer Park. The Hinton Riot U13 boys team capped off a strong season with a bronze medal at zones.