2021 Sports Year in Review

MacDowell Rugby Academy founder Robin MacDowell and national men’s rugby sevens player Pat Kay, both graduates of Cowichan Secondary, speak to students at the high school on Wednesday, Feb. 17 about the new academy program that debuted in the fall. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)MacDowell Rugby Academy founder Robin MacDowell and national men’s rugby sevens player Pat Kay, both graduates of Cowichan Secondary, speak to students at the high school on Wednesday, Feb. 17 about the new academy program that debuted in the fall. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Andy Hutchins, who died on May 21, contributed to the Cowichan Valley in uncountable ways, including as vice chair of KidSport Cowichan for the last 10 years. (Submitted)Andy Hutchins, who died on May 21, contributed to the Cowichan Valley in uncountable ways, including as vice chair of KidSport Cowichan for the last 10 years. (Submitted)
Kellan Brienan is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the Lake Cowichan Kraken’s home opener at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena on Sept. 17. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Kellan Brienan is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the Lake Cowichan Kraken’s home opener at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena on Sept. 17. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Ellashani George was a regional and provincial winner of the 2020 Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport. (Submitted by Ellashani George)Ellashani George was a regional and provincial winner of the 2020 Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport. (Submitted by Ellashani George)
The Canadian women’s eight, including Brentwood College School graduate Sydney Payne, poses during the medal ceremony for the women’s rowing eight final at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 30. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)The Canadian women’s eight, including Brentwood College School graduate Sydney Payne, poses during the medal ceremony for the women’s rowing eight final at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 30. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Cowichan Valley curling icon Glen Harper, seen here during the ceremony to rename the Duncan Curling Club’s building in his honour, died on Aug. 3 at the age of 92. (Citizen file)Cowichan Valley curling icon Glen Harper, seen here during the ceremony to rename the Duncan Curling Club’s building in his honour, died on Aug. 3 at the age of 92. (Citizen file)
Sara Goodman (bottom right) and her teammates celebrate winning gold at the Women’s Junior Field Hockey Pan Am Championships (Photo courtesy Field Hockey Canada/@FieldHockeyCan)Sara Goodman (bottom right) and her teammates celebrate winning gold at the Women’s Junior Field Hockey Pan Am Championships (Photo courtesy Field Hockey Canada/@FieldHockeyCan)
Callum Davison was the Points Leader and Player of the Year on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada for 2021. (Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada photo)Callum Davison was the Points Leader and Player of the Year on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada for 2021. (Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada photo)
Matt Percillier and Ciaran Breen made their debuts with the senior national team at tournaments in Vancouver and Edmonton in September. (Liz McDougall photo)Matt Percillier and Ciaran Breen made their debuts with the senior national team at tournaments in Vancouver and Edmonton in September. (Liz McDougall photo)
Emily Zurrer and Dano Thorne we being inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame of B.C. this past fall (Left: Citizen file, right: submitted by Dano Thorne)Emily Zurrer and Dano Thorne we being inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame of B.C. this past fall (Left: Citizen file, right: submitted by Dano Thorne)
Jeremy Garside bowled a perfect game at Duncan Lanes on Wednesday, Oct. 20. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Jeremy Garside bowled a perfect game at Duncan Lanes on Wednesday, Oct. 20. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Brentwood College’s senior boys soccer team celebrates after winning the Coastal Region championship in November. (Submitted by Brentwood College School)Brentwood College’s senior boys soccer team celebrates after winning the Coastal Region championship in November. (Submitted by Brentwood College School)
The Cowichan Piggies celebrate after beating Castaway Wanderers 16-13 in the Times Cup final in early December. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)The Cowichan Piggies celebrate after beating Castaway Wanderers 16-13 in the Times Cup final in early December. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
The bantam Cowichan Bulldogs celebrate after winning the provincial nine-man championship in Langley in early December. (Jen Laver photo)The bantam Cowichan Bulldogs celebrate after winning the provincial nine-man championship in Langley in early December. (Jen Laver photo)

In February, the Cowichan School Valley School District and accomplished coach Robin MacDowell announced the creation of a top-end rugby academy based out of Cowichan Secondary School beginning in the 2021-22 school year.

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Duncan Christian School had the best participation numbers among small schools in B.C. in a basketball challenge in February designed to keep student-athletes active during the COVID-19 layoff, matching a similar feat in a cross-country running challenge the previous fall.

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The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League announced in early March that it would not be resuming play in the 2020-21 season.

The nine-team junior B circuit had been optimistic that it could get back into action after halting games in November due to COVID-19-related restrictions, but a post to the league website from president Simon Morgan confirmed that the season was officially over.

The VIJHL played games in October and November, each team getting between 11 and 13 contests before the season went on hold on Nov. 21. The pause on league play was extended again in December, January and February, and BC Hockey announced the cancellation of the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup — the junior B provincial championship — in early January.

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Shawnigan Lake School grad Quinten Richardson and Brentwood College School grad Martin Barakso faced each other in one of the most storied events in the sport of rowing: the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities. On Sunday, April 4, Richardson was in the No. 4 seat for Cambridge and Barakso in the No. 3 seat for Oxford in the 166th official Boat Race.

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The Cowichan Valley Capitals completed their 20-game B.C. Hockey League pod season in May with a record of seven wins, 11 regulation losses and two overtime losses, going 5-2-1 in their last eight contests.

“It was really a roller-coaster,” head coach Brian Passmore said. “You’re not playing for a playoff spot or the big grand prize. It was neat to see the excitement for the players to get the pod season. Even through the low points, they were striving to play hard and play better. It seemed like a season where you play for yourself, and play to be looked at [by scouts], but they learned that when they played for the team first, they looked better in the end.”

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The Cowichan Valley sports community lost a giant on May 21 when Andy Hutchins died after a lengthy illness. Hutchins was involved as a volunteer or participant in rugby, rowing, football and other sports, and served as vice chair of KidSport Cowichan from its inception in 2011 until his death. Hutchins also helped the Cowichan Sportsplex and Cowichan Aquatic Centre come to fruition, and was a member of the Maple Bay Volunteer Fire Department for nearly 50 years.

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The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League announced in June that it would be adding a pair of expansion teams in 2021-22: the Lake Cowichan Kraken and Port Alberni Bombers. The Kraken moniker was selected in part because of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, but also because of Cowichan Lake’s own legendary monster, the Stin’Qua.

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A mainstay of the national team for eight years, Duncan’s Pat Kay was formally announced as a member of the Canadian men’s rugby sevens team for the Tokyo Olympics in late June. It was “almost a relief,” Kay conceded.

“There are 20 guys in the program now, and they’re all good rugby players,” he pointed out. “So a few guys were going to be disappointed.”

Kay and Canada went on to finish eighth in the Olympic tournament.

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The hometown Red Sox finished fourth overall, the Dodgers made it to the tournament semifinals, and the RiverCats were runners-up in the skills competition base race as the Duncan Junior Baseball Association hosted the tadpole regional championships at Evans Park in July.

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Brentwood College School continued its streak of sending alumni to the Summer Olympics, dating back to 1976, when 2015 grad and rower Sydney Payne was named to the Canadian women’s eight for the Tokyo Games. Additionally, Matthew Sharpe, who attended Brentwood for Grade 10, was named to the Canadian triathlon team, and Andre Jin Coquillard became the first Brentonian to represent a country other than Canada when he was named to the South Korean men’s rugby sevens team. Brentwood’s head rowing coach, Laryssa Biesenthal, was also bound for Japan, as coach of Singapore’s lone rower, Joan Poh, in the women’s single sculls.

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Duncan athletes Ellashani George and Kristine Williams were among six from across Vancouver Island to receive the 2020 Premier’s Award for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport from the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council in the spring.

A standout in volleyball and basketball during her time at Duncan Christian, Williams missed out on the track and field season in her Grade 12 year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and shared the Senior Athlete of the Year Award. George is a two-sport athlete in war canoe and soccer, and made the provincial canoe team for the North American Indigenous Games after winning two provincial silver medals.

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Cowichan Bay distance runner Alexa Dow teamed up with three athletes from Victoria to crush the 12-year-old Canadian record in the U23 distance medley. Dow, 14 ran the 1200m leg, with Clara Chudley running the 400m, Ella Ballard running the 800m, and Angelina Shandro running the 1600m. The quartet finished their race in 12 minutes and 5.42 seconds, taking a significant chunk off the old Canadian record of 12:17.12, set in 2009.

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Brentwood grad Sydney Payne and the Canadian women’s eight rowing crew, which does much of its training on Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan, won gold at the Tokyo Olympics. The Canadian women held off New Zealand at the finish line, taking gold with a time of 5:59.13 to the Kiwis’ 6:00.04. China was third with a time of 6:01.21.

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A difficult season for the Duncan Dodgers ended with a silver lining in late July. The 11U AA baseball team friend and teammate Avery Oye early in the season when he was hit by a truck while riding his bike, but used that as inspiration as they battled to a silver medal at the regional championships in Comox. The Dodgers went on a roll at regionals, winning their first two games — which were scored by bases touched — 20-9 over Nanaimo Black and 11-2 over Victoria 1. The Duncan team edged past Oceanside 12-11 in the first elimination game, then defeated Campbell River 10-1 in the semifinals. Their only loss of the tournament came in the final on Monday afternoon, when they were beaten 14-3 by Victoria 2.

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The Duncan Jays played to a second-place finish as hosts of the 11U AAA baseball regionals at North Cowichan’s Evans Park last weekend. The Jays opened the tournament with back to back losses, 14-13 to the Victoria Seawolves and 20-10 to the Carnarvon Cannons, then exploded for a 17-4 win over the Campbell River Tyees in their last game of pool play. They carried that momentum into the semifinal, where they beat the Seawolves 10-8 in a rematch. That set up yet another rematch, this time against the Cannons. Although it was a closer result in the second meeting, the Carnarvon club prevailed again, 7-0.

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Glen Harper, a legendary curler in the Cowichan Valley and beyond, and the namesake of the building that houses the Duncan Curling Club, died on Aug. 3. The 92-year-old Harper was a two-time winner of the BC Men’s Curling Championship, in 1960 and 1963, among many other titles, and was such an integral part of the Duncan Curling Club that the club renamed its facility in his honour in 2012. Harper went to the Brier twice as the B.C. men’s champion, and contended for national titles on three other occasions: twice after winning the B.C. mixed championship on teams that included his wife, Marg, and once as the provincial senior champion.

More than just an accomplished curler, Harper was a cornerstone of the sport in the Cowichan Valley. He and his father, Ron, helped get curling started in Duncan when they opened the first club in a quonset hut on James Street. When the roof of that structure started rotting, he spearheaded fundraising efforts for a new building on Sherman Road. Completed in 1967, it was eventually renamed for Harper 45 years later.

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A combined team of Saltspring Island and Duncan ballplayers finished on a winning note as they captured the bronze medal as hosts of the 13U regional baseball championships in August. The Islanders beat Comox 17-7 in the third-place game at Evans Park on Aug. 2. Most years, teams are divided into single-A and AA divisions, but this year, they were split up into north and south regions — although Comox ended up playing in the south — and the Islanders ended up being the best of the single-A batch.

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Sara Goodman helped lead Canada to gold at the 2021 Women’s Junior Field Hockey Pan American Championships and a berth in the 2021 Junior World Cup. The 21-year-old veteran of the Canadian program who rose up through Cowichan Field Hockey and Cowichan Secondary School captained Canada to top spot at the Pan Am tournament in Chile, which wrapped up in late August. The win marked the first gold medal in the history of Canada’s junior program and the first Pan American championship for a Canadian women’s team at any level.

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Both rowers from the Cowichan Valley who competed in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo finished off the podium. Duncan’s Kyle Fredrickson, a graduate of Shawnigan Lake School, finished eighth overall with the PR3 mixed coxed four crew, and Mill Bay’s Jessye Brockway placed 12th overall with her partner in the PR2 mixed double. Both events wrapped up with their finals on Aug. 29.

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Shawnigan Lake’s Thomas Vaesen, who grew up playing minor lacrosse in the Cowichan Valley, was selected in the first round of the 2021 National Lacrosse League draft. The Buffalo Bandits snapped up Vaesen 14th overall with a pick that previously belonged to the Albany Firewolves. Vaesen spent the last four years at Montevallo University in Alabama.

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Duncan golfer Callum Davison beat out the weather and the rest of the field to earn his first career victory on the Mackenzie Tour PGA TOUR Canada in the Brudenell River Classic at Brudenell River Golf Course in Cardigan, P.E.I. on Sept. 2. Davison edged out Golf Canada Amateur Team member Noah Steele by a single shot to take the win.

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After winning 26 games in a row over the summer, the 15U AA Cowichan Valley Mustangs hit a wall in their provincial championship game, losing 9-4 to the host Ridge Meadows Royals. The Mustangs went a perfect 18-0 in their Island league, then swept best-of-three playoff sets against Abbotsford and North Island to reach the final five tournament.

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A change in the format this year brought a younger demographic to the Gord Closson Oldtimers Fall Classic softball tournament in August, and many of the newcomers to the long-running event were in awe of the tournament, the park where it is played, and the sense of community, organizers reported. The tournament at Glenora’s Waldon Park has a 52-year history of helping the Cowichan Valley, and that legacy continued this year as organizers shared the proceeds with the families of Avery Oye and Mark Olson, and the Clements Centre’s Sundrops Centre. Oye was an 11-year-old minor baseball player who died in a car accident in Mill Bay in July. Olson died suddenly in March 2020 at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife and two young sons. The Sundrops Centre supports children 0-5 with a variety of services to aid in their development. In the fastball division, L.T. Consulting topped the Rangers in the final, and in the ortho division, the Chiefs defeated the Al-iggers.

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A standout pitching staff led the way as the Duncan-based Mid Island Brewers swept past the Layritz Reds to take the South Island Baseball League championship earlier this month. Hurlers Morley Scott and Jamie Roberts propelled the Brewers to their first league title by winning the first two games of the best-of-three series against the Reds at Lambrick Park in September. The Brewers went 10-4 in the regular season, tying the Layritz Rockies for second overall, but Mid Island was seeded second going into the playoffs based on run differential.

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Ciaran Breen and Matt Percillier, who both grew up in Mill Bay and attended Shawnigan Lake School and Brentwood College, respectively, made their debuts with the national men’s rugby sevens team in international tournaments in Vancouver and Edmonton in September.

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Callum Davison became the first two-time winner on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada in 2021 by winning the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf Club in Kelowna in late September. Davison finished with a four-round total of 14-under, two shots better than Delta’s Yi Cao. Davison went into the day with a one-shot lead, then shot a three-under 68 on Sunday.

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Davison finished the season by clinching the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada title at the Reliance Properties DC Bank Open Presented by Times Colonist at Uplands Golf Club in Victoria in early October. The 21-year-old Davison shot a six-under 64 on Sunday to tie for the low round of the day with Montreal’s Etienne Brault and finished the tournament at seven under to place ninth.

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Frances Kelsey Secondary School’s Alexa Dow won the junior girls race at the Vancouver Island high school cross-country running championships in Victoria on Oct. 20. Dow finished her race in 16 minutes and 40 seconds, 35 seconds ahead of the runner up. She wasn’t the only runner from the Cowichan Valley to crack the top 10, as Luise Hitzbleck of Brentwood College School finished eighth.

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Jeremy Garside, 16, bowled a perfect 300-point game during YBC league play at Duncan Lanes on Oct. 20.

The last frame seemed to pass in slow-motion as one pin remained standing until another fell across the lane and knocked it down. “I was more in shock than anything,” Garside recalled. “I was smiling away though.” With a previous high score of 239, Garside had envisioned bowling a perfect game, but never expected it to happen at such a young age. “I had always hoped,” he said. “I didn’t think it would come this soon though.” Garside is the youngest bowler to record a perfect game in the Cowichan Valley.

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A regional winner for Vancouver Island of the 2020 Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport earlier this year, Duncan’s Ellashani George was named a provincial winner as well during a special event held over Zoom in October.

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The head coach of Aboriginal Team BC since 2004 and the head coach of the Duncan Stingrays since 2007, Leanne Sirup was honoured in the fall for her many contributions to the sport of swimming with the Aboriginal Sport Circle’s National Indigenous Coaching Award for 2021. Presented to one male and one female coach each year, the National Indigenous Coaching Awards represent the ASC’s philosophy that sport fosters the development of the whole individual.

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Cowichan Secondary School’s junior field hockey team capped off a perfect season by winning the Island championship this fall. Between the Friendship Cup, John Ferreira Memorial Tournament and league play, the T-Birds had a perfect record going into the Island championships at UVic. They kept that momentum going at Islands, going unbeaten through four pool games, then crossing over to beat Oak Bay in the final.

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Jenna Goodman picked up where her older sister, Sara, left off when she was named to Field Hockey Canada’s roster for the 2021 Junior World Cup in South Africa, the same tournament her older sister, Sara, helped Canada qualify for. The Junior World Cup in December would have been Jenna’s first time representing Canada on the world stage, but it was postponed due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. A new date for the tournament has not yet been announced.

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The Cowichan Valley was well-represented in the Soccer Hall of Fame of British Columbia’s Class of 2021. Coach Dano Thorne and the NIFA national team that won gold at the 2015 World Indigenous Games are being inducted this year, as is Emily Zurrer, who played 82 games with the national women’s team, winning bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London.

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Alexa Dow ran to a second-place finish in the junior girls event at the provincial cross-country championships in Vancouver in early November. The Frances Kelsey Secondary student was the top Grade 9 runner in the junior girls race, finishing in a time of 17 minutes and 53 seconds, 47 seconds back of the winner.

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The Cowichan Secondary School Thunderbirds came within the smallest of margins of winning a medal as hosts of the provincial AAA field hockey championships in November. The T-Birds were edged 1-0 by the Churchill Bulldogs in the bronze-medal match at the Cowichan Sportsplex, the lone goal coming late in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t Cowichan’s lucky day, as the T-Birds had two goals called back.

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The Duncan Christian School Chargers punched their ticket to provincials after placing second at the single-A girls volleyball championships that the team hosted in November. Placed in a power pool that included the other three top teams on the Island, the Chargers went 1-2 in round-robin play, but swept their way through the first two rounds of the playoffs to reach the championship match against Nanaimo Christian. The Chargers later opted out of the provincial tournament due to travel concerns.

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The peewee Cowichan Bulldogs’ quest for an Island football championship fell just short, but their season didn’t end with the Island final. The Bulldogs lost 32-13 to the Westshore Warriors in their 12-man league final, but the team can now focus on the provincial nine-man championship, to be held in the spring.

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Four graduates of Cowichan Secondary School helped the University of Victoria Vikes to their third consecutive USports field hockey national championship. Ashton Aumen, Robin Fleming, Melanie Robertson and Chloe Langkammer were members of the UVic team that beat the University of Toronto two games to one in the best-of-three series that wrapped up on Nov. 12, with Fleming also taking home the championship MVP crown and Langkammer being named national Rookie of the Year.

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The Cowichan Rugby Football Club took a step forward with reconciliation with First Nations with a land blessing ceremony featuring the Tzinquaw Dancers from Cowichan Tribes. The CRFC was one of several sports groups, including Cowichan’s Div. 1 men’s soccer team, to hold reconciliation ceremonies this fall.

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An intense two days at the provincial Coastal Region AA boys soccer championships last week, including semifinal and final matches that went to penalty kicks, ended with Brentwood College School taking home the championship. Not quite a provincial championship, the Coastal tournament in Burnaby featured the teams from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley who qualified for provincials. When it became apparent early in the week that Interior and Northern teams wouldn’t be able to attend because of extensive flood damage throughout B.C., the field was reduced from 16 to 12, and from five games in three days to four in two days. Brentwood had never won a provincial title in soccer, and while this win won’t count as one in the eyes of B.C. School Sports, it’s a remarkable achievement for the team.

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Graduates of Brentwood College and Shawnigan Lake schools were front and centre as the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and University of Victoria Vikes squared off for the gold medal at the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship on a snowy field in Kingston, Ont. Brentwood alumni Matt Percillier and Jacob Bossi and Shawnigan grads Evan Norris, Connor Sinclair and Jose Palero Aleman led UBC to a 39-7 victory over UVic, which included former Brentwood players Liam Mitchell, Ayo Ogunlade and Hanno Fourie, and former Shawnigan players Jenner Teufel, Nathan Bice and Graeme Norris.

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The Cowichan Rugby Football Club’s senior men’s team claimed the Times Cup, representing supremacy in Vancouver Island’s First Division, with a thrilling 16-13 victory over Castaway Wanderers on a frozen Herd Road field in early December. Castaways’ home pitch in Oak Bay was shut down, so the men’s and women’s finals had to be relocated to the Cowichan field, which suited the Piggies just fine. Owen Wood scored all 16 points for Cowichan.

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A two-point margin was all that separated the Cowichan Piggies from the Xi’Sul Stomish Cup in a narrow loss to Castaway Wanderers in the battle for the Vancouver Island First Division women’s rugby championship. Both teams dominated the Island competition this fall, but Castaways had a slight edge on the day, winning 26-24 in a game that was moved to Cowichan because CW’s regular home field in Oak Bay was closed.

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The Cowichan Bulldogs survived a back-and-forth battle with the Meadow Ridge Knights to bring home the B.C. Community Football Association’s nine-man bantam provincial championship banner on Dec. 4. The Island champion Bulldogs travelled to Langley for the provincial final, where they defeated the Knights 33-24 to claim the provincial title. With three touchdowns, including a late pick-six that iced the result, Max Lang was named MVP of the championship game.

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Three home teams were in action as the Cowichan Rugby Football Club played host to the BC Rugby Vancouver Island Age-Grade Finals on Dec. 12. Cowichan’s U13 boys capped off their perfect season with a win in their gold-medal match, while the U14 and U16 girls teams were defeated in their third-place games.

2021 Year in Reviewcowichan valleySports