By CLAUDE SCILLEY
In the grand scheme of their senior boys soccer season, there wasn’t much at stake for the Holy Cross Crusaders Thursday afternoon. As the top surviving AAA team in the county—and with no other triple-A schools in eastern Ontaro—their ticket to the provincial championship had already been punched on Tuesday, when they qualified for the Kingston Area final.
That didn’t matter.
“We wanted to be the city champions,” Crusaders coach Pat Murphy said.
And so they are.
With two goals from Justin LaFrance and a defence that held off a late flurry by the Kingston Blues, the Crusaders emerged as Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association champions with a 2-1 victory at Miklas-McCarney Field.
Holy Cross completed an undefeated season—8-0-1 in league and playoff competition—by handing KC, which finished first in the regular year, its first loss of the spring.
On a brilliantly sunny but cool and windy day, the game was one of two halves. With the wind at their backs in the first half, the Crusaders forged a 1-0 lead, as LaFrance converted a beautiful cross from Eric Rebelo, who incidentally played a superb game, defensively, from his middle back position.
LaFrance scored his second goal early in the second half on an indirect free kick from inside the box.
That goal proved to be critical, and not just for the fact that it came with Holy Cross playing into the stiff southerly breeze.
“It allowed us a little bit of breathing room and I think it took the wind out of their sails a little bit,” Murphy said. “They had great fan support … and it quieted the crowd a bit and gave us a little bit of comfort.”
It was a cushion the Crusaders were glad to have when KC's Ben Posthumus scored on a penalty kick with about 10 minutes to go in the game. The Blues pressed furiously at that point but they could not gain the equalizer.
“It was a little bit tense at the end,” Murphy said. “They really pressed. They have a very good team. They put us under a lot of pressure but we have a bend-but-not-break defence, and the kids played really well.
“The wind really played a factor. We dominated the first half; we were up 1-0 but we probably should have been up more, but then in the second half we held on.”
The teams did not meet during the regular season and Murphy said that was a disadvantage, when it came to preparing for the game, but he allowed that the players are not strangers.
“The kids know each other; they play a lot of soccer with each other in the summer,” he said, “so we knew who their strong players are and they knew who our strong players are, but it would have been nice to play them in the regular season.
“It made it a little more exciting, because of the unknown. We played them in an exhibition game way back before the beginning of the schedule but everybody was playing their subs and both teams improved significantly since then.”
A vital element to the Crusaders’ success, Murphy believes, was the play of his midfielders.
“We moved the ball well, and I think our midfielders controlled the ball better than theirs did. I thought we won the midfield battle, for the most part, but they have a lot of guys who can score from anywhere and we had to be aware of that.”
KC will host the Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association championship Tuesday, seeking the region's berth in the AA provincial tournament in North Bay. The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AAA championship tournament will be held June 4-6 in Windsor, and the Crusaders will be going proudly.
“We were going to OFSAA, anyway,” Murphy said, “but we wanted to go as champions.”