Rom Derrick took it upon himself to motivate Leaside Lancers senior boys soccer team.
Not only did the grade 12 student find a new song to pump up his team, but he took charge on the field Nov. 2, leading the Lancers to a 2-1 shootout victory over Northern Red Knights and the South Region championship.
With the temperature hovering around the freezing mark, the teams battled through regulation and extra time before Leaside would capitalize on the penalty shootout.
"When I first came to Leaside in grade 9 the expectation (to win) was really high," Derrick said after the game. "We would get really close every year but couldn’t do it.
"But finally, we get to win in my last year, so it feels really great."
After a scoreless first half, Northern capitalized on a penalty kick two minutes into the second. Leaside would apply sustained pressure for the rest of the half, eventually finding the equalizer with only two minutes remaining in regulation.
Derrick curled a free-kick from just outside the 18-yard box that was headed home by defender Scott Wood. Derrick admitted that his shot into the scrum of players was not a set play.
"That one there was luck," he said. "Sometimes it’s just like that.
"I just decided to put it towards the net, hoping some guy would get there. It worked out nicely and I was happy to help with that one."
Twenty minutes of extra time solved nothing, so the Lancers headed to penalty kicks for the third time in this year’s playoffs. When the dust settled, goalie Geoff Hopkins had made three saves and Derrick had kicked home the winner as Leaside won the shootout 3-2.
Head coach Chris Ujimoto gave Derrick credit for taking the team on his back after the Lancers had fallen behind. His determination was contagious, as Leaside continued to battle for the rest of the game.
"Rom played amazingly well," said Ujimoto. "He was all over the field.
"He was able to get the forwards moving, he was able to control the game, and he was able to create that chance that we obviously capitalized on. He was essential to the game."
Winning the South title was not on Ujimoto’s radar when the season began. Since almost 80 percent of last year’s team had graduated, he thought 2006 would be a rebuilding year. But with several members from a junior team that won the city title last season, the Lancers turned out to be a threat all year.
"I knew we had a strong team, but not a team that can go very far, so it was very unexpected," said Ujimoto about his team’s title win. "The chemistry, the way they hustled and the way they never gave up, whether they were down one or two goals, was essential to our team.
"They always kept fighting regardless of what the odds were."
The Lancers will head indoors to keep their chemistry fresh this winter. In May they will be gunning for an OFSAA berth when they participate in the Triple A city championship.
As for choosing a new song for the city tournament, Leaside may want to stick with the one it has now.
"We started singing our song from last year, but I said we should find a new one," said Derrick, who chose a dance tune called ‘Pump it Up’.
"This song got us motivated and pumped us up. And it seemed like every time we sang it, we would score a big goal."
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