Michael Di Pietro of Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School fired the shot that won his side the battle of Stoney Creek.
With just 16 seconds left on the clock, Di Pietro sped down the wing and blasted a low drive that eluded the goaltender and found the corner of the net. That goal gave Cardinal Newman a 1-0 indoor high school soccer victory over another Stoney Creek-based squad – the Orchard Park Patriots.
“That’s a team goal,” Newman coach Gerry Moretuzzo enthusiastically told his players as he quickly gathered them together at the final buzzer.
Newman and Orchard Park were two of 20 high school contingents from Hamilton and Niagara taking part in the 4 Corners Special Olympics Ontario soccer tournament at Players Paradise Sports Complex on Thursday (March 20). The 4 Corners program provides sport competition for students 13-21 year old with an intellectual disability.
Boys and girls played together, 5-on-5.
The event served as a qualifier for the provincial finals June 4-5 in York Region.
In addition to the narrow victory over Orchard Park — Nicholas Morel was solid in net for Newman — the Cardinals tied E. L. Crossley of Fonthill, 3-3, and defeated the Eden Flyers of St. Catharines, 3-2.
Di Pietro did all the scoring for Newman, which fought back from a three-goal deficit to tie Crossley.
“I love the game,” said Di Pietro, who celebrated his 18th birthday a day earlier.
Di Pietro, who has participated in intramural soccer for the past five years, says he enjoys passing the ball and getting his teammates involved in the action even more than scoring. The Newman coaches were actually encouraging him to go on the offensive himself rather than trying to set up his teammates so often.
“The best thing about our tournament is we pre-division all of our teams prior to the event,” said Kirsten Bobbie, 4 Corners Project Co-ordinator for Special Olympics Ontario. “All teachers have to fill out a skills assessment test that gives us a number and a kind of ranking. We group teams of similar ability levels.
“Everyone comes away with the same experience and has a close game.”
Di Pietro’s other teammates on the Moretuzzo-Jeff Zwolak-coached squad were Jesse Rego, Cassandra Taylor, Gabriella DeLuca, Lucas Camara, Austin Camara and Daniel Kapron.
“Girl power!” Moretuzzo said enthusiastically when it came time for substitutions involving his female players.
The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board was represented by Cathedral and two Cardinal Newman squads.
Said Bobbie: “This is fantastic. Aside from 200 people smiling today, we’ve got everyone embracing being active. It’s important for these kids, too, to be competing on behalf of their school. They might not have had the opportunity to do that before today.”
Newman players also were cheered on by educational assistants and student volunteers from the school.