By Larry Moko
The St. Thomas More Knights went undefeated in 2019 but it wasn’t easy -- they needed a goal in overtime of the final to win the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic junior boys’ high school soccer championship.
It was the first league title for More since 2011.
The first-place Knights (7-0-1 overall) were tied with the third-place Bishop Ryan Celtics until Jordan Peters scored mid way through the second 10-minute overtime period, lifting More to a 3-2 victory.
The deciding play began with a free kick from near the sideline in BR territory by Aidan Burke.
“It bounced off someone and I got a head on it,” Peters said. “The goalie made a good save and it popped out. I just shot it and it went in.
“We’ve worked hard for this the whole season. It feels good to finally see the results.”
Bishop Ryan got off to a fast start, scoring the only goal of the first half – by Juan Pablo Vasquez -- and having a definite edge in dangerous opportunities around the net.
Damiano Refosco then struck for a pair of goals on strong left-leg shots -- the second completing a give-and-go play with Lucas Frada.
Bishop Ryan fought back, however, tying the score in the 63rd minute on a goal by Hamzeh Alaqwarapi.
“Scoring has been a challenge for us all season,” said Lesley Ivinac who, along with Adrian Gonzalez, coaches the Knights. “It was nice to see Jordan manage to pull through on that one.”
In their last meeting, Bishop Ryan tied the Knights, 1-1.
“This was a fantastic match … a nail-biter just like last time,” Ivinac said. “They put up a heck of a fight. We had a rough start in this game. We definitely needed to wake up in the second half, which we did.”
Bishop Ryan coach Sandra Vieira said it was a tough loss for the Celtics, who last won the junior championship in 1998. “The boys came out strong and played together as a unit,” she said.
“There was great communication. They were playing for each other.
“We were ready. It just ended up going the other way.”
Vieira said she was proud of Bishop Ryan’s season, which included 7-0 and 2-0 playoff victories over the St. Mary Crusaders and the perennial champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals. “We beat Newman on their home field in the semifinals. So we had a really good vibe and energy coming into this game.”
Ivinac, a former high school player at Bishop Ryan who went on to play at the NCAA level for Canisius College, said could sense at the beginning of the season that More had potential.
“Mr. Gonzalez and I knew we had a special group of boys,” she said. “We felt we could do it. No doubt from the beginning or goal was to bring back the championship to St. Thomas More.”
Other players on the More roster included Aidan Segato, Gianluca Amatangelo, Daniel Bellavia, Edwin Oguigo, Aldo Ramirez, Jesse Domanio, Josh Phipps, Chris Vucicevic, Nick Filipovic, Jason DaSilva, Angelo Cino, Hussein Al-Ansari and Domenik Skinner.