Legendary coach Kevin James was back running the show for the Cowichan 49ers, and picked up right where he left off with the O35 men’s soccer team.
James, who guided the team to three straight Tony Grover Cup championships between, started this season on the injured reserve list after undergoing back surgery, but has returned to action now, and his team’s 5-1 victory over the Fernwood Dragons at Finlayson Turf on Saturday showed that he hasn’t missed a beat.
The coach was honoured with The Chain as the 49ers Man of the Match.
“Kevin came back to coach his second game and made it look simple,” said 49ers player/manager Neall Rowlings, who handled coaching duties in James’s absence. “He had to move a lot of players around to ensure we could handle Fernwood.”
Stu (Shake ‘n’ Bake) Barker opened the scoring in the seventh minute by jumping on a turnover and sending in a cheeky shot from 35 yards out, then Matthew James and Richard Lord also scored in the first half. Barker added another early in the second half after walking around the Fernwood keeper on a breakaway, and Matt Arnett pounded him his second of the season in the 78th minute.
Fernwood’s lone goal came on a penalty kick between Barker’s second and Arnett’s goal, robbing Darian Achurch of a shutout. The Cowichan keeper still has five on the season, tied for first in the O35 A division.
As well as getting James back, the 49ers also had Henry Nelson in their ranks for the first time since last season, and he played well and provided a vocal presence on the field.
The 49ers sit atop the O35A table with eight wins, one draw and one loss. Their next opponent will be none other than second-place Vic West, the only team to have beaten them this season. Vic West will visit the Sherman Road turf this Saturday at 6 p.m. in the final game for the clubs of 2021.
The Cowichan Steelheads will also play at home this Saturday at 8 p.m. following an 11-0 loss to UVic Alumni in Victoria last Friday.