Central Alberta’s representatives in the provincial under-16 boys’ Tier 4 rural soccer championship last weekend in Stettler weren’t on the same page.
Lacombe mined the gold medal with an unbeaten record, while Stettler went 0-4 and placed last in the eight-team tournament.
The young Stettler side went into the provincials with modest expectations — and without “four or five” regulars who were out of town vacationing or absent for other reasons.
“We have a couple of players that are travelling other places with vacations, and a couple of key injuries,” said Stettler coach Mitch Finkbiner.
“It was tough because we were missing a lot of size, and a few of our older players were missing.
“We were able to call up a couple of other guys and they did a good job of filling in and bridging the gap.”
Along with a couple of Camrose additions, the Stettler club called up a pair of hometown players from the under-14 team — Ryan Mielke and James Switenky.
Finkbiner, best known as a former junior B hockey standout, is about to launch a teaching career at Theresetta Catholic School in Castor.
He got a taste of teaching this season with the under-16 soccer team.
It’s been a learning year focused on development.
“It’s the type of thing that’ll pay off, with the younger players,” said Finkbiner, 23. “Probably half our roster is underage, especially with the two players called up. … If we’re able to keep that group together, in two years, that would pay off a lot.
“It’s unfortunate right now, there’s some growing pains, but they’re all working hard, so they’re learning that much more, playing against players who have more experience than them. So it’s a good experience, even if the team success isn’t necessarily there.”
Stettler’s most competitive game was its finale — a 3-2 loss to St. Albert in the seventh-place game Sunday.
In preliminary action, Stettler lost 8-2 to Three Hills on Friday and 7-1 to Whitecourt and 10-0 to the Vermilion Strikers on Saturday.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Lacombe was a juggernaut, capped by a 5-2 victory over Whitecourt in the gold-medal game. In round-robin action, Lacombe tied Wetaskiwin — the bronze-medallist — 1-1, and beat St. Albert 16-0 and NW Peace 10-0.
In the third-place game, Wetaskiwin needed overtime to beat Vermilion 4-3.