Plainsmen Cruz past Vikings to provincials
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Eric Oki proved winners are defined not by bad breaks but by how they respond to them.
The Crocus Plainsmen striker handled a ball that led to Vincent Massey’s equalizing penalty kick. A minute later, he put his head down and scored the go-ahead goal of the Brandon High School Soccer League boys’ final, a 4-2 triumph at Massey on Wednesday.
“After the handball, I felt embarrassed,” Oki said. “I was very angry but I didn’t quit and scored a goal. I’m very happy about that.”
The Plainsmen’s celebration lasted as long as their 20-minute onslaught of scoring. They hoisted the championship plaque that once may have grown roots in the Crocus trophy case before the Vikings ripped it away in 2022. It meant a little extra to the school that hasn’t won much outside of girls’ basketball lately.
“We’ve been building chemistry ever since the Kenora tournament,” said Grade 11 midfielder Alan Cruz. “(Wednesday) we understood we needed to give it all for the Grade 12s and the new ones on the team and understand that we’re Plainsmen.”
The teams split their regular-season meetings but Massey took the top seed with a 5-0 win to offset a 1-0 defeat in the season opener.
Neither side budged early, going without a quality scoring chance for the first half-hour.
The Vikings nearly got a break when Plainsmen goalkeeper Dylan Cruz misplayed a ball but got away with it as the ensuing shot sailed wide. Crocus striker Marhawi Kidane narrowly missed on a quality chance just before the half as it stayed 0-0.
The teams traded penalty kicks after handballs, with Plainsmen Edwin Cerquera picking the bottom left corner and Viking Kevin Garcia going top right to tie it 1-1.
Oki blasted one home a minute later. Then, in the 54th minute, Alan Cruz launched a towering free kick from 50 yards out, almost on the left touchline. The wind brought it across the goal and down just under the crossbar. The Plainsmen celebrated like they knew it was over at that point. The hero’s big brother rushed from his box across the halfway line to join the party.
“I was actually planning to put it on the second post but it went in the first post so I’ll take it,” Alan Cruz chuckled. “It felt pretty good, and my dad was watching so I think I fulfilled his promise with that goal.”
Cerquera tacked another one on three minutes later with a free kick from 40 yards.
Massey didn’t quit, ripping a few hard shots on target but Dylan Cruz was equal to almost every task. The senior keeper made a pair of terrific high-diving saves to his right to keep his team ahead.
“My brother Dylan really played a big role on our team,” Alan said. “Some of the shots they did wouldn’t have been able to be saved unless he was in net. Without him, it would have definitely been more of a closer match.”
Temi Toogun rounded out the scoring, poking a loose ball past Cruz in added time but it was too late.
The Plainsmen survived a 1-0 semifinal against Neelin last week. Now they’re off to provincials in Steinbach on June 2-3.
The girls’ final between the No. 1 seed Vikings and No. 2 Spartans goes today at Massey at 4:30 p.m.
» Twitter: @thomasmfriesen