Taking over from the only head coach the Cowichan 49ers have ever had has been a challenge, says Neall Rowlings, who assumed the role at the start of this season.
“It’s been a real struggle without Kevin James at the helm,” said Rowlings, who also plays striker for the O35 men’s soccer club. “They’re big shoes to fill.”
Regardless of how he feels about filling those shoes, the results suggest Rowlings is doing just fine, as the Niners picked up their first win of the season last Saturday, beating Juan de Fuca Pacific 2-0 to remain undefeated in the early going.
The 49ers took a deep roster down to Colwood. Tyler Hughes opened the scoring with a cheeky chip shot in the 22nd minute, and Stu Barker doubled Cowichan’s lead shortly before halftime when he flicked up a pass and finished with a precision scissor kick.
Darian Achurch earned the clean sheet. Centre midfielders Mike Minckler and Matt Arnett were everywhere throughout the game, and subs Jeff Mann and Jordan Clarke came on with something to prove, putting the Juan de Fuca defence under pressure.
“The JDF keeper was definitely the man of the match against us,” Rowlings said.
With a win and a draw in their two matches so far, the 49ers will face their biggest test of the campaign this Saturday when they host UVic Alumni, who have outscored their opponents 9-0 while winning all three of their matches, on the Sherman Road turf at 6 p.m.
“A few years back this league was ours to lose,” Rowlings commented. “The last few years it’s been UVic’s, so we have a lot to prove on our home park Saturday. We are looking to our fans for support.”
The Cowichan Steelheads have been idle since they played the 49ers to a 3-3 draw on Sept. 18, their second draw this season in as many games. They will look for their first win when they return to action this Friday when they visit Vic West at Finlayson Turf.