By Larry Moko
The game, as they say, is never over until it’s over.
At the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic junior boys’ high school soccer championship Tuesday, there were several stunning reversals of fortune in the late going.
After both teams went scoreless during the 80 minutes of regulation play, the Bishop Tonnos Titans got a goal by Casian Cardos which appeared to be the winner heading into the last few minutes of overtime. That’s when the host Bishop Ryan Celtics struck for a pair of header goals, however, by Christian Pulsone and Lucas Spinosa and the Celtics looked to be in command.
But Lucas Lloyd of the Titans scored during injury time to send the game into penalty kicks. Second-place Tonnos then outscored first-place Bishop Ryan 3-1 in PKs to capture its first league title since 2017.
“It’s crazy,” Tonnos coach Angelo Beatrice said. “Right when you’re thinking the game is kind of over …. The urgency was there, though. We have that never-give-up attitude.
“It’s one of those stories that these guys will have to tell when they’re older.”
Bishop Ryan completed the regular season with five wins and two ties in its seven starts. The Celtics then advanced through the first two rounds of playoffs with 9-1 and 2-1 victories over the St. Mary Crusaders and the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, respectively.
The Titans (4-1-2) ended up third in the final standings. They topped the St. Thomas More Knights, 3-1, in a quarter-final before blanking the second-place St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, 2-0, in semifinal action.
The host Celtics hit the goal post to begin the penalty kicks. And they couldn’t find the back of the net on two other shots stopped by goalkeeper Nicholas Zanin. Tonnos went 3-for-3 on its kicks from the spot.
“I practise penalties a lot,” Zanin said. “I was just trying to commit myself to one way and read their body language. When I thought of a side, I dove to that side. Luckily enough I made the saves.
“Team play is why we’re here. We have a strong defence.”
According to Zanin, the Titans have been facing adversity all year, including in the final. “We never stopped fighting,” he said. “That’s why we won.”
The Titans and Celtics tied, 2-2, during the regular schedule.
“This game was evenly matched,” Celtics coach Brian Grajales said. “Both teams controlled possession at points and had a little bit of offensive outbursts.
“We knew their keeper would be a tough task to beat.”
BR accomplishments this season included going undefeated and scoring “an unheard of” 40-plus goals en route.
“We were down 1-0 with a minute or two left and we scored two quick goals just like that to change the complexion of the game,” the Celtics coach said. “You’ve got to play the full 90, that’s the cliché. You have to play the full game because you never know what’s going to happen. We let our guard down for 10 seconds there.”
Other members of the Titans included Noah Caghih, Andrew Jakji, Angelo Cassasanta, Zion Jonathan, Lucas Geissler, David Pocrnic, Sebastian Ortiz, Markus Gesse, Jacob Cinelli, Luka Dawtrey, Luka Pasalic, Michael Kalampalikis, Ethan Rajack, Anthony Bombardieri, Valentino Perrone, Stefano Di Vincenzo, Charlie Vigus and Faisal Abu-Lebda.
“We’ve been building towards this all year,” Beatrice said of the league title. “We’ve been working so hard for this moment. Our resiliency paid off today. I’m unbelievably proud of these guys.”