It was the Lacombe U15 Panthers Team Dunlap that found gold at the end of rainbow Tuesday night.
Or rather, the rainbow found the end of their Central Alberta Soccer Association (CASA) Tier IV gold medal game against the Camrose Vikings at the Woodland fields in Lacombe, as they edged out their opponents in a tight 2-1 win.
Both the sight and the win were symbols of redemption, given they had been defeated by the same Vikings team only a week prior in provincial qualifiers.
“It was pretty exciting – we were jumping up and down,” said Head Coach Chris Dunlap. “It was real important for us to get them back. It was our last game of the season, so it was big to bring home gold.”
It didn’t look like that would be the result at the start of the game. The Vikings’ Isaac Swanson scored early in the game, and the momentum, combined with his team’s size saw the Panthers hemmed in their own zone and unable to break out.
That changed shortly into the second half, as Dunlap tweaked his team’s offence and they took over on possession, tying the game, and then taking the lead several minutes later.
“We had a small forward, Jack Roberts – who is a great forward but was having trouble getting past their defenders – that we swapped with another forward, Josh Johnson, and to be honest, that little switch just pushed the ball up field for the rest of the second half,” he said.
Johnson and Aiden Hand would score the goals for the Panthers that led to their gold medal victory.
Although they won’t be headed to provincials like their silver medallist opponents, it was a decent end to a season where they finished first in the league. Dunlap said that while five of the seven league teams could beat each other on any given night, it was his team’s commitment to defence that was the difference – which he said was key in his U13 team topping Van Der Heide’s last season in the final.
Team Van Der Heide’s U15 Panthers, meanwhile, captured bronze in a lopsided 4-1 victory over Wetaskiwin on the east Woodland field Tuesday night.
“It’s pretty impressive – all these other towns only have one team,” Dunlap said. “We’ve taken our talent, and split it into two teams. For both our teams to be competing and getting gold and bronze is pretty exciting.”
The Lacombe U13 Panthers also won bronze in Ponoka on Monday.