Senior Boys Linwood Football Tournament

By Connor Stephenson | Posted: Saturday September 24, 2022

The final week of August saw winter sports tournament week return to secondary schools for the first time since 2020 due to the Covid 19 Pandemic.

The lengthy wait to go on tournament and represent Logan Park on a national stage again meant suspense was building, and for the Senior Boys first XI football team, this was no exception. Under the tenure of new Head Coach and Teacher Mr O’Farrell the boys entered in the Otago Secondary Schools Premier division over the winter period, our first appearance in this competition for many years. The comp saw us win, lose, draw but most importantly improve and learn, in what was the perfect preparation for the 2022 Linwood Football tournament in Invercargill.

About a week out from tournament the draw was released, we knew we had to win our pool in order to make it into the semi finals to have a chance at winning the whole thing. We had drawn Bayfield High School, Kavanagh College, Verdon College, and tournament favourites and heavyweights Christchurch Boys High School.

After an eventful night at the Logan Park School formal the night before, the boys all met up at school around midday, packed up the vans and embarked upon the famous and illustrious city of Invercargill in hopes of silverware.

Our first game was at 9 am on Monday morning against Kavanagh, undoubtedly our second hardest game in the group. The game started off rough, a bobbly pitch and cold conditions saw us fail to switch on and in the first 10 minutes we found ourselves one nil down. However this would simply be a wake up call, immediately from kick off Felix Townend played a ball over the top which saw Matt Fraser convert for our first goal of the tournament, within quick succession we had found another through Ethan Lambeth which saw us take the lead, 2-1. The second half saw the game return to its scrappy origins of the first half with Kavanagh plying on the pressure. With 5 minutes to go they had the momentum and we needed to score to put the game to bed. A high press and impressive work rate from Taddy Kleffmann saw him win the ball off of the keeper and place a delicate ball across the box which saw Matt Fraser smash it in for his second. Fraser ran to the corner flag with the team and bench following suit for the most exhilarating celebrations. Only moments later Townend would get our fourth, leading the boys to a hard fought 4-1 win over our Dunedin rivals, in what was becoming a Co-Ed “E Classico”.

The following day saw us play two games against Bayfield and Verdon, two teams who had had rough results the day before at the hands of Christchurch boys. We would continue our fine run of form with a 14 nil win over Verdon and a 6 nil win over Bayfield, the day saw some of our talented junior players get valuable minutes and even get their names on the score sheet. A successful day results-wise saw our evening activities involve initiation songs for those who were on their first away trip.

Wednesday would be our hardest challenge. Unmatched to anything Logan Park football has done in years. We would play tournament favourites, Christchurch Boys in another cold, early 9 am start with a semi final spot on the line later in the afternoon. The game started off rough, Christchurch boys brought a level of intensity which we weren’t switched on enough to react to. A horror start, the first two minutes saw us two nil down with a mountain to climb if we were to win. After these opening minutes the boys started to show real character and determination on the pitch. We started winning our tackles and breaking up the play, playing exactly to the game plan. We were all over them, our intensity lifted to a level which they couldn’t match, and it eventually led to a goal. A Matt Fraser free kick saw Walid Ouhassine leap like a salmon, and with his towering header the ball found itself in the back of the net for 2-1. With 5 minutes to go Christchurh boys were rattled, pinned in their own half, the opportunities were coming our way. The boys fought to the very end, leaving absolutely everything on the pitch. Unfortunately we weren’t able to convert our chances and we ran out 2-1 losers to the eventual tournament winners. We were the better team for the vast majority of the game and felt like we were on the verge of a footballing fairytale upset, we came so close but at the same time were so far away. Heartbreak and exhaustion wrenched through the team after that game, leaving us admittedly ill-prepared for our afternoon game where 5th place was still on the line.

Frustration and a series of contentious referee calls saw us down to ten men against Trident High School from Whakatane. A game where nothing went our way. A 2 nil loss meant the next day we would be playing rivals Mount Aspiring College for 7th place, a team which we had lost to 7-1 in our 2020 tournament. A series of injuries and a suspension left our squad severely depleted with just the one sub. In light of this, it was the perfect opportunity for our star studded line up of juniors to step up to the challenge. Logan Park's very own year 10 footballing prodigy, Torsten Wilkinson would do exactly that, grabbing two goals through some classy finishes. However these goals would only see us through to a two all draw, meaning we were in a penalty shootout. Under the tenure of previous head coach, James Govan, we had an appalling record in penalty shootouts, having not won a single one in my 4 years in the first XI. The challenge before us required us to do something we hadn’t done in a long time. Our first five penalty takers were a collection of Footballers who no doubt had the ability to put the ball in the back of the net, however the stress of a penalty shootout completely changes the Dynamic. Fortunately two world class penalty saves from Walid Ouhassine saw only four of our penalty takers needed. Summer signing Felix Townend, as well as Matt Fraser, Ethan Lambeth and Max Mayhem-Haining were the ones required. Townend, Fraser and Lambeth all converted with icey composure and clean finishes, leaving Max the final kick to win the game. This was Max’s redemption story, from a contentious referee decision the day before which saw him ineligible to play that day, to possibly winning a penalty shootout against a rival school. Max stood up to the spot, and with his less than reassuring stance and run up, Max hit the ball unconvincingly into the top right, sending the keeper the wrong way, winning the game for Logan Park. From the halfway line the team sprinted to embrace Max and Walid for the most invigorating and animated celebrations.

Massive thank you to Mr O’Farrell, Simon Fraser, and Kim Prescott who were integral parts to the team on and off the pitch and we couldn’t have done it without them. As well as of course a huge thank you to the boys involved with the team, on and off the pitch it was an incredibly enjoyable and valuable experience, and was the perfect way to finish my Logan Park Footballing career.

The boys were desperate to win this tournament to dedicate it to ex teacher and coach James Govan who moved to Australia after term two of this year. Although we couldn’t make it happen we want to thank “Gov” for all he did for us on and off the pitch. The positive, healthy, encouraging and banter filled environment in the football team wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for his contributions. So from all the boys, thanks Gov, and we hope we made you proud. 

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