The action was intense during Friday’s Island Championship final at Robron turf field betweem Carihi (in green) and SMUS. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River earns redemption, secures Island senior boys soccer championship

By Alex Weinstein and Antoine Minfray

Carihi’s Senior Boys soccer team has yet again produced a historic finish in the Island Championships this past week.

The squad’s intelligent patterns of play are the result of the team’s chemistry developed from their numerous seasons together. During the 2016 Island Championships, Carihi was a young team consisting of players mainly in Grades 9-11 and only two Grade 12s. Despite the difficult odds, Carihi prevailed against Brentwood College School in the Island finals.

Two years later, in this year’s Island Championships, Carihi has bloomed into a more vigorous and clever Grade 12-dominant team due to their exposure to many high caliber games and strong connection with one another on and off the pitch. Nineteen teams started this season across the Island with the dream to win it, Carihi were determined to return to the summit of High School Soccer on the Island.

To kick off the championships, Carihi faced the underdog Gulf Islands team. The players knew from their experience the previous year at the Island Championship not to take this team lightly, for their berth to the Provincials was jeopardized due to an upset tie against them. However, in just the opening seconds of play, Carihi asserted themselves as the superior team. A foul drawn by Nathan Chow allowed for Corson Arbour to get on the end of a well taken free kick, finding the net less than a minute into the game. Their dominance of the play continued from there. Not long after, Carihi’s Eugene Park controlled the ball with his chest inside the 18 yard box and placed the shot away from the goalkeeper’s reach. Grade 9 Sam Borrie got a taste of the action and fared noticeably well against opponents much larger than he. A third goal by co-captain Fergus Hall sealed off the win to start off the championships on the right foot.

Carihi’s second game consisted of a fierce battle with Brentwood College School, a team they had yet to face this season. The squad knew they were in for a good fight, but no-one expected it to be as intense as it was. The game began at a quick pace, Brentwood’s speedy offence forced Carihi’s defensemen to be razor sharp. After a frantic sequence of defending, Brentwood was awarded a free kick and nearly opened the scoring. The shot struck the crossbar and came back out for a rebound, which a player in red headed directly into the post.

Later in the match, Park did what Brentwood couldn’t and volleyed a rebound from a Nathan Chow header into the back of the net. Relentless back and forth action backboned by centre backs Tanner Kempe and Nicholas Macgregor made for a captivating first half of play. Coach John Jepson toed the sideline and made strategic changes in the second half, aiming to secure the win. Grade 10 Thomas Greze-Kozuki joined into the defensive line and made his presence known, displaying qualities similar to those of Manchester City centre back John Stones. The final 10 minutes of play were visibly filled with passion, players pushed hard to defend and attack until the whistle determined the final verdict. One for Carihi and none for Brentwood.

“It was one of those games that you live and train for,” said Jepson shortly after – still feeling the adrenaline of the game.

A good night’s rest and the team would be back on the field the next day to have a run at the Island title.

Ahead of the most crucial game of the season on a foggy Friday morning, the team warmed up determined to play at at their very best. The atmosphere was tense at the Robron Field turf in Campbell River, a win over the competitive Stelly’s team would see them through to the Provincial Championships.

“Let’s show them who we are,” said co-captain Chow in the huddle directly before the kickoff.

In the early minutes, the starting 11 players controlled their jitters in a mature fashion, moving the ball well and controlling the play. Grade ten goalkeeper Trent Perras proved very calm on the big stage, making smart decisions and distributing the ball out nicely. After a few missed opportunities, Fergus Hall connected with a beautiful cross from John Samuels to find the back of the net. From there, the Carihi train began to roll and the chances kept coming. Hall stormed the 18 yard box once more and potted a second header. Chow used his frightening speed to outrun the Stelly’s defence to put in Carihi’s third goal of the match. In the second half, strong contributions from young forwards Eric Phuong and Victor Le and rock solid defence by vocal leader Alec Weinstein and strong aerial presence by Nico Matheson helped to round off the game at a score of three nil.

The wound of 2017’s Island final 1-0 loss off of a last-minute corner against SMUS still haunted the memories of the squad. After months of preparation for the Island Championships through summer running programs, numerous practices, exhibition tournaments and the North Island Championships, Carihi was presented with an opportunity to redeem themselves against their South Island rivals.

Moments before kickoff, Coach John Jepson mentioned some final words of encouragement to inspire the boys.

“Let’s get redemption for last year’s lads,” he said.

Jepson was referring to Captains Shohei Iwamoto and Jared Perras, midfielder Jeffrey Lindenbach, and especially fullback Jonah Shankar who is currently battling cancer.

Off the whistle, Carihi played their game by keeping possession of the ball and passing around the park. After a foul drawn by Hall, Carihi were given an opportunity to seal a lead in the game. Park floated the ball above the goalkeeper’s hands and into the back of the net, giving the Tyees a 1-0 advantage.

Carihi dictated the tempo against their opponents, narrowly missing a few quality scoring chances. The Tyees eventually capitalized when, late in the second half, a volley by team MVP, Josh Rolland snuck past the goalkeeper, destroying SMU’s hopes of becoming reigning Island champions.

Carihi’s physical presence with the likes of Josef Dirom and Brady Assu prevented SMU from breaking out of their end cleanly. The Tyees maintained their focus and composure until the final whistle, when they finally let their emotions flow into cheerful celebration.

Claiming the title of Island Champions and qualifying for the provincials three years consecutively, for only the sixth time in Carihi’s history.

While Carihi is celebrating the success of their fantastic finish, their season is not yet over as they will attempt to forge more history at the BC AA School Soccer Championships taking place Nov. 19-21 in Burnaby. Having experienced two provincial championship tournaments, the Senior Boys are fully aware of the high-level teams they will have to overcome to claim the title of provincial champions. While it will be no easy task, the Tyees are going to put in every ounce of effort to make their dream a reality and be remembered as the most successful soccer team in Carhi history.

“Being a part of this team in my last year at Carihi is something I can smile about for years to come, I hope for it to end on a high note in Burnaby,” said Grade 12 fullback Antoine Minfray

“I would like to give our coach Mr Jepson a huge thank-you for putting countless hours in for us to have a chance to represent Carihi in the Provincial championships for the third year in a row,” Grade 12 co-captain Nathan Chow said.

The Carihi Senior Boys Soccer Team would like to thank staff, parents and community members who came out to cheer them on throughout the tournament. T

he Tyees encourage everyone to tune in to their live games broadcasted on website.