SUNDERLAND Boys Under-13s stole the show in the Sunderland Schools FA’s annual awards ceremony.
The youngsters lifted the regional A.F. Hardy Trophy – and could yet be crowned champions of the Tyne & Wear League.
An eight-game winning streak at the start of the season set the tone for the city side, with their first defeat coming in the fourth round of the All-England Cup, losing to Allerdale in unfortunate fashion following fine wins over Stockton, Carlisle and Harrogate.
They are top of the league standings, but can be pipped by second-top Gateshead and third-placed Chester-le-Street & Washington. Incredibly, they have beaten both of their rivals twice, with 10-2 aggregates in each, but two narrow losses to East Northumberland have proved costly.
Sunderland landed the A.F. Hardy Trophy thanks to three wins, with 14 goals scored and only three conceded in beating East Northumberland 4-1, Gateshead 6-1 and, in the final, Bishop Auckland 4-1 after extra time at Leyburn Grove, Houghton.
In a dramatic final, Bishops scored first, after several near-misses by the Wearsiders, but an equaliser forced extra time and three Sunderland goals settled the destination of the trophy.
Team managers Lee Blakeston and Steve Wales hailed the inspirational goalscoring run of Kyle Soper, who scored seven hat-tricks in 12 matches.
U13s squad: Aidan Mutch, James Graham, Nathan Broad, Ben Errington, Luca Murphy, Josh Croft, Joe Lockey, Callum Nord, Jack Naylor, Emeraude Yembe, Lucas Gamblin, Dane Burlace, Steven Black, Jack Leonard, Tom Best, Tom Green, Jamie Turnbull, Kyle Soper, Owen Leckenby, Kiegan Turns
Sunderland Under-14s were a much-changed squad to the lads who won the regional A.F. Hardy Trophy and the national Playstation Cup in 2014, with 10 players joining professional clubs’ academies. Despite no national cup to aim for, and a series of injuries, the team played 24 games.
Their best efforts came in the Inter-Association Cup, beating Hartlepool 4-2 away and reaching the semi-finals before losing 2-0 to Darlington after extra time, going down to two breakaway strikes after dominating but failing to make the most of their possession.
U14s squad: Keaton Marrs, Luke Ridley, Luke Pearn, Josh Elcoate, Nathan Simpson, Brad Allen, Jonny Langley (captain), Thomas Scothern, Joe Hassanin, Max Russell, Sam Royal, Liam Barnes, Nathan Proctor, Dan Thompson, Jack Hamilton, Bailey Judson
At Under-15 level, Sunderland Boys endured disappointment in the English Schools FA Trophy, going down 4-2 at Stockton after leading 2-0.
The side, though, produced a tremendous performance to win their opening Tyne & Wear League game 3-1 against Gateshead. They managed to play only three league games but won them all, beating Gateshead 3-1 again and East Northumberland 2-1.
In the Sunderland Childrens Hospital Cup, the city side defeated South Northumberland 3-2 but could not repeat the previous year’s final success when they lost a very tight semi-final 1-0 to Bishop Auckland, who scored with a breakaway goal in the final stages.
It was only a fourth defeat in three years for the strong Sunderland side.
U15s squad: Jack Ramage, Ellis Stoker, Fraser Colling, Owen Walls, Niall Palmer, Sam Lilley, Josh Akal, Elliott Robinson, Isaac Gamblin, Aaron Duell, Jon Weirs, Mohab Elmarakbi, Callum Guy, Kyle McCulloch, Liam Lindsey, Nathan Greenwood