TRURO - The Cobequid Cougars wasted no time making their intentions known to the Citadel Phoenix Saturday in their NSSAF Division 1 boys soccer provincial qualifier.
Cobequid's quick start earned the team just its fourth trip to the final four in the school's history as the Cougars rolled to a 4-1 victory at CEC Field.
"It feels really good," said Cougars rookie attacking midfielder Ben Gorringe, who scored twice in the contest. "They were one of the top-ranked teams but we just played really well and got a good result."
The provincial championship will be held Friday at Saturday at Park View high school in Bridgewater. Joining the Cougars at the dance are the two-time defending champion and host Panthers, Halifax West Warriors and Riverview Reds.
The last time the Cougars made the final four was in 2008 when they hosted the event.
The Cougars jumped all over their opponent early and were rewarded when Josiah McNutt scored just 15 minutes in. Then Gorringe gave the Cougars a 3-0 cushion by half time.
"We came out of the gate strong and that first goal got us believing in ourselves a little more," Cougars coach Jay Foster said. "They came back at us pretty hard but we just soaked up the pressure."
Then they were rewarded again when McNutt netted his second of the game early in the second half in what was the finishing blow for the Phoenix, who self destructed with a pair of red cards.
Veteran keeper Tim Trites picked up the win.
"We just outplayed them," Gorringe a 15-year-old Truro resident said. "We weren't as technical as they were, but we were more physical and worked harder and just wanted it more."
Foster said even if the Cougars fail to win another match this season they can be proud of what they have already accomplished. The road to cracking the final four is one of the toughest in high school sports because even regional champions are forced into qualifying matches to earn a spot at the event. Only the champion of the host region earns a bye to the tournament.
It is only the second time the Cougars have won a qualifying match to get to the event.
"The last couple weeks we hadn't been playing that well but we had been getting the job done," Foster said. "But everybody rose to the occasion because they knew we had to play at a different level to beat them."
The Cougars posted a 4-0 record to finish first in the regular season before taking the Northumberland Region title last week in a 5-1 aggregate win over the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Royals.
The Cougars girls saw their season come to an end Saturday in Sydney as they dropped a 1-0 decision to the Riverview Reds.
"It's a little disappointing," head coach Trevor Gordon said. "We hoped to make the final four but that's sports and things didn't go our way."
Riverview scored in the second half to win after a scoreless first 45 minutes.
The girls are missing out on provincials for the first time in three seasons. The team was forced to win a pair of qualifying matches to get back to the championship after falling 2-1 to the Royals in their regional final. Cobequid edged the Lockview Dragons 1-0 in their first qualifier Thursday to advance to Saturday's match.
Cobequid is set to lose nine seniors from its squad including keeper Ashley Morrell, captains Brittany MacKay and April MacKay, Cheltyn Morgan, Katie McCavour, Taylor Lynds, Kim Duggan, Nicole Rushton and Nanna Petersen.