The local derby between the Cowichan 49ers and Cowichan Steelheads this Saturday is shaping up as a closer battle than might have been anticipated at the start of the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s masters A season.
While the 49ers have dominated the over-35 scene for the last three seasons, winning two league titles and three Tony Grover Cups, the Steelheads have usually played in a lower division and haven’t experienced the same degree of success.
That has changed this year.
“The year began with a large meeting of the two groups, where we decided that we could field two extremely competitive teams,” explained Neall Rowlings, who plays for the 49ers and manages both teams. “The 49ers are the slight favourite, but the Steelheads seem to be up to the task to knock us off of our perceived pedestal. The Steelheads are quickly becoming the ‘Giant Killers’ in the over-35A Division.”
The tale of the tape has the 49ers with six wins and no losses to sit first in the division, with 25 goals for and six against, and nine different players doing the damage. The Steelheads have four wins and two losses, 12 goals for and nine against, and seven different scorers.
The Steelheads, Rowlings pointed out, have made their mark with a style of soccer all their own, as evidenced by the disciplinary totals.
In six games this fall, the 49ers have been assessed 12 yellow cards to the Niners’ four.
“Judging by the overall yellow-card allotment, the Steelheads are not going to the win the FIFA Fair Play Award this season,” Rowlings kidded.
Kevin Smith started the season with the 49ers but recently transferred to the Steelheads, where he has sparked the team to impressive wins with early goals. Rowlings calls him “The Minute Man.”
“I coined this nickname as in his first two games he has scored in under three minutes each game,” Rowlings said. “No idea what he does for the rest of the game.”
Rowlings is already guaranteeing a Cowichan win on Saturday, or at least a tie.
“What I can tell you is it will be entertaining and a close battle,” he said. “So please come out and be as confused as we are when we cheer for Cowichan in this iconic game.”
Both teams are coming into the game off convincing wins this past weekend.
On Friday night, the 49ers defeated Juan de Fuca Ghostfinger Alliance 5-1 on two goals by Darcy Penner, one each by Ryan Fusick and Jai Irvine and a JDF own goal.
The Steelheads beat Gorge 4-1 on Saturday afternoon. After Smith opened the scoring, Gorge added an own goal and Dennis Atkins and Eric Nelson also found the net for Cowichan.
The all-Cowichan clash between the 49ers and Steelheads this coming Saturday takes place at the Sherman Road turf, starting at 6 p.m.