It was all but carved in stone that the Craig Street 49ers would become the first Cowichan team to win a Vancouver Island Soccer League masters championship.
All the team needed was a win or a tie at home last Saturday to put themselves out of reach of the other teams in the Masters A division.
Almost unfortunately, the 49ers ended up facing a struggling and undermanned Gorge Masters B team in that decisive game, making the match a little less exciting than it could have been under different circumstances.
“It was a little anticlimactic,” Cowichan coach Kevin James admitted after his team’s 9-0 win.
The last-place team in the B division, Gorge would have been in tough anyway, but the team was only able to bring seven players on Saturday, making it even more lopsided in Cowichan’s favour. Gorge wasn’t even in a position to forfeit. Having already forfeited once this season, a second such result would make the team ineligible to play next season, on top of having to pay a substantial fine.
“We were glad that we at least got to win on the field as opposed to a forfeit,” James said.
The conditions were difficult for both teams to play under.
“It doesn’t make for a good game,” James admitted. “We were as respectful as we could be under the circumstances. But where do you draw the line?”
After scoring eight times in the first half — although they could have had twice as many — the 49ers had just one in the truncated second half.
“When the game was over, the teams shook hands. Everything was fine. We respected the fact that those seven players had the commitment to be there.”
Stu Barker scored twice, and Tyler Hughes, George Thomas, Henry Nelson, Brad Thorne, Neall Rowlings and Dave Tuckey had one each. Rob McIntyre and Preston Johnny combined for the shutout.
Cowichan allowed only eight goals against over 17 league games, the fewest allowed by a team at any level of the VISL this season, a testament not only to McIntyre and Johnny, but to the defensive play of the entire team.
“We have two strong goaltenders and six of seven really strong defenders,” James said. “We’re fortunate that way.”
The league title sewn up, the 49ers can now focus on defending the Tony Grover Cup. Having won their opening game on Feb. 17 3-0 over SFFC Forest, Cowichan will next visit Prospect Lake’s B team this Sunday at Layritz Park. The 49ers beat Prospect 4-0 in their last meeting on Jan. 19.
“They’re a solid team,” James said. “They have some quality players. Some of them were missing last time we played them. We’ll be focused to play them.”
The Masters B Cowichan Steelheads are also still in contention for the Tony Grover Cup. The Steelheads beat Peninsula in their first game on Feb. 16, and visit Vic West B this Saturday.