After squeaking through the qualification rounds ranked third in the zone, the Pemberton Secondary boys soccer team headed to the provincial "A" school championships in Rossland last weekend to battle for the top small school honours. Five games later, the underdog Pemberton team were the top dogs, downing Nakusp 3-0 in the finals.
According to head coach Paul Selina, half of the 16 teams in the provincials were public schools and the rest private. By the end of the first two games only two public schools remained in the tournament - one, obviously, was Pemberton. The second was Nakusp.
The PSS team was comprised of boys from N'Quatqua, Mt. Currie and the Pemberton area, including a large First Nations contingent.
"In the end it was their willingness to play as one community that propelled them to the best ever finish in PSS soccer history," said Selina.
It was also a victory for public schools, with private schools winning the title the past 10 years.
On the way to the title, Pemberton lost just one game, to the top-seeded team and reigning champion.
Game One was against Langley Christian, a private school. Team captain Hans Schranz scored for Pemberton in the first half, assisted by Arnold Dan. In the second half Pemberton took advantage of a free kick, with vice-captain Chris Walsh dishing the ball to Schranz, who buried it to go up 2-0. Langley answered back and scored two in the next five minutes to tie things up. But with eight minutes to go Lane Gobert of Pemberton scored the go-ahead goal.
Game Two was against Glenlyon Norfolk, another private school and the reigning champions. They controlled the game start to finish, and by the end were up 4-0 on Pemberton.
In Game Three, Pemberton faced Osoyoos. Hans Schranz netted his third goal of the tournament off a chip by Soren Elsay. Lane Gobert headed a ball to Chris Walsh to score Pemberton's second goal.
Game Four was a battle against West Point Grey, a team that defeated Pemberton 1-0 in the zone championships to force Pemberton to battle Whistler for the third and final spot in the provincials. Pemberton's defence - Toby Eslake, Robin Esseltine, Soren Elsay and Maadison Jones - were put to the test, as was goaltender Harlen Malkowitch. The game was scoreless through regulation and into extra time. Late in the second half of the extra time Arnold Dan passed the ball to Chris Walsh, who then passed it along to Schranz. Schranz deked a defender and fired the ball into the net to give Pemberton the lead. One minute later the game was over and Pemberton were in the finals.
Game Five was a head-to-head battle with Nakusp, which came to the tournament sporting mullets and as much facial hair as they could grow. Pemberton had style on the field, however, and easily took the lead. Chris Walsh and Hans Schranz combined for the first goal in the first half, Toby Eslake scored on a corner kick to Maadison Jones, and Schranz scored the last goal - his sixth in five games, and the last goal of his high school career.
The PSS players thank the community for fundraising to send the team to Rossland, assistant coach Ted Gobert and Lynda Selina for handling the team's paperwork, Mark Leverton at PSS, and the team of parent drivers.
Other members of the team include Steve Armande, Sam Schranz, Phillip Bowden, Logan Pehota, Robin Esseltine, Patrick Henry, Shawn Russell, Hunter Passenou, Kelly Dan, Kyle Hustins and Kyle Jacobs.