The Cowichan 49ers (left) and Steelheads will square off one more time this season in a cup play-in game on the Sherman Road turf at 6 p.m. this Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Soccer rivals gear up for their biggest battle

Winner takes all as Cowichan 49ers face Cowichan Steelheads

For the Cowichan Valley’s two masters soccer teams, it all comes down to this.

The Cowichan 49ers and Cowichan Steelheads will take to the Sherman Road turf this Saturday at 6 p.m. for what one clever (and honest) player has dubbed “the battle of A535 and Advil.”

Saturday’s match is a play-in game for the Tony Grover Cup tournament. The 49ers are looking for their fourth Grover title in just four years of existence, while the Steelheads are hoping to play spoiler and make a run at their first cup.

Both teams play in the masters A division of the Vancouver Island Soccer League, where the 49ers are locked into second place behind UVic Alumni and the Steelheads are currently third but can’t drop below fourth. The Niners won both regular-season battles between the rivals, 2-0 in October and 1-0 in January, but they aren’t taking this weekend’s game for granted.

“We are preparing heavily,” 49ers player Neall Rowlings said. “The Steelheads have a hot goalie right now. Preston Johnny is arguably the best keeper right now in over-35 still standing.”

Chris Muller was the 49ers’ stalwart keeper until he went down with a season-ending injury a couple of weeks ago, and the team has scrambled to replace him. Johnny, meanwhile, has been a force for the Steelheads as both Cowichan teams have allowed just 18 goals against in 17 league matches, tied for second in the league behind UVic’s four.

“I believe Preston has a case for league MVP,” Curtis Flynn of the Steelheads said after his team’s most recent game, a 1-0 victory over Vic West. “UVic and the 49ers can miss their keeper, 18-goal striker, skilled midfielder or shutdown defender and still dominate due to their replacement players. We lose Preston, we would have lost this game and most likely a few others.”

Up front, Kevin Smith leads the Steelheads with eight goals, and will need to be at the top of his game on Saturday as the team’s next three leading goal-scorers will be absent. “Sleeper striker” Flynn will move into the support role beside Smith.

The 49ers recently added the tenacious Henry Nelson to their ranks, and will have Matt Arnett available for this game.

Based on the teams’ previous meetings, Rowlings knows this game has the potential to be tight.

“The reality is this game could go the distance,” he said. “If it’s 0-0 at the end it would go into overtime and potentially a shootout. Only one of our two successful Over 35s team will continue in the Tony Grover Cup. It’s not a cup we will take lightly; it’s time to go fishing for Steelheads.”

While only one Cowichan team will continue in the cup race, it won’t be the end of the line for either club. Both sides have one league game remaining on March 7.

The 49ers have already qualified for the provincial A tournament, and the Steelheads will play in either the A or B tournament.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pumps not needed on the Cowichan River this year

Wet year so far has resulted in higher water levels

Pig destined for sanctuary goes missing from Cobble Hill farm

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Editorial: Mask wearing: innocuous advice has turned into polarizing war

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read