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High school boys soccer back on the pitch in the Tri-Cities

After a more than a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, high school sports is back. Here's a look at the senior boys soccer season that opened last Tuesday.

Boys high school soccer is back. 

Although, as some coaches will attest, getting players to buy into that — after more than a year away from the pitch because of COVID-19 public health restrictions — has been a challenge.

Terry Fox Ravens coach John Murphy said the lack of school sports last year sapped the motivation from some athletes and steered them in different directions.

“COVID has force many of us, including students, to reconsider their interests and direction,” he said.

Centennial Centaurs’ coach Kevin Comeau said with sports off the radar for so long, getting players out for tryouts proved challenging.

But up at Heritage Woods Secondary, Kodiaks’ coach Michael Viveiros said students have been champing at the bit to play for and support the school’s teams.

“Students really have missed that school culture and involvement in school activities,” he said, adding COVID “has created a thirst and huge craving to participate in school sports and activities after having them taken away for the past one-and-a-half years.”

Over at Pinetree Secondary, Steve Jack said his charges are “eager to get going again.”

Not that players were entirely bereft of soccer for the past year: Most were able to stay involved at some level with club teams, practising and eventually playing competitive matches again. How they’re able to leverage that activity on the pitch for their high school team could prove a key to a side’s success.

Amidst the frenzy of getting students back into the classroom routine and reigniting extracurricular programs that were dormant for more than a year, most coaches admitted they’re a little uncertain of what exactly they have to work with.

Here’s how the teams break down:

Centennial Centaurs

Coach Kevin Comeau characterizes his side as “relatively inexperienced,” but “hard working.” As a result, he’s prepared for players to take a few games to hit their stride and gel as a unit.

If that happens, he said a Top Four finish in league play and even a berth in the provincial championship tournament for the first time in eight years aren’t out of the question.

Key players include:

  • Nico Porretti, Grade 12 centre back
  • Chase Doucette, Grade 12 centre midfielder
  • Nathan Hagiwara, Grade 11 centre midfielder
  • Roman Bandiera, Grade 11 centre midfielder

Terry Fox Ravens

Raven coach John Murphy says his squad runs the gamut of experience, from top-line athletes who play club soccer in the BC Premier League to Div II house league players. Bringing that disparate mix together in a short period of time will be the team’s key to success.

Murphy said while a Top Four finish in the district is possible, advance to the provincial championship tournament might be a tall order.

If it’s to happen though, key players include:

  • Daniel Last, Grade 12 midfielder
  • Owen Watson, Grade 11 centre back
  • David Park, Grade 12 attacking midfielder
  • Grady Warburton, Grade 12 centre midfielder
  • Jameson Lokun, Grade 12 goalkeeper

Heritage Woods Kodiaks

The Kodiaks didn’t win a match in 2019. But coach Michael Viveiros hasn’t let that hold back his aspirations for this season.

“I believe we have the talent to make BC’s,” he said. “That is the goal and that would be the mark of a successful season.”

Fuelling Viveiros’ optimism are Grade 12 midfielders Jordan Low and Zur Tomas, both of whom will be carrying on their family names as their brothers, Jacob Low and Teo Tomas, were also prominent midfielders for the Kodiaks.

They’ll be supported by up-and-coming Grade 11 players Jack Mallow and Jake Scholte, who Viveiros feels can play a big part in the team’s success.

Pinetree Timberwolves

Timberwolves’ coach Steve Jack says what his team lacks in technical ability, it can make up with determination and structure.

“We are a team that battles,” he said, characterizing his squad as young and hardworking.

Jack said the team is eager to test its mettle on the pitch again, with an eye to shutting down opponents than looking to capitalize or their errors.

Key players include:

  • Joel Badger, Grade 12 midfielder
  • Behrad Hajimohammadi, Grade 12 midfielder and defender
  • Matin Kazemi, Grade 10 defender

Port Moody Blues

The Blues are rebuilding

Coach Robert Edwards said with the sport absent from the school for almost two years as the team didn’t play in 2019, it’s kind of fallen off the students’ radar. That may have lowered his expectations, but not the athletes’ enthusiasm.

“The players are cheerful and happy to be out playing again and actually having games,” Edwards said, who added he’ll be looking to a couple of senior, Marcus Fujii and Etienne Zhang to provide leadership.

Gleneagle Talons

Gleneagle has landed. Back in AAA.

After playing at the AA level in 2019 to help build the morale and confidence of a young side, coach Roberto Ramogida has elevated the Talons back to AAA competition for this season. He said it’s mostly for logistical reasons to limit travel time to and from games, but, he added, his energetic crew is ready to learn and battle.

“We have a core group of guys who are very committed and drive our program forward,” Ramogida said, adding with the season comprised of only seven games, that determination will have to progress quickly.

Riverside Rapids

Clarence Chee is bullish on the Rapids.

The team’s coach, who works with parent-coaches Tim Burke and Mark Colligan, said a solid core of juniors that peaked at the right time and won a championship are now on the senior team and they’re hungry for more.

That success sparked interest in this year’s team, complicated by the compressed time frame for tryouts.

“The players were very hungry for competition,” Chee said. “We expect to be right there with the top teams.”

Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils

The Blue Devils know what it takes to be successful. With five provincial AAA championship banners, the team is rarely out of the conversation when it comes to post-season play.

Still, says longtime head coach Dave Jones, the pandemic layoff and a quick start to this season amidst so much disruption make it hard to know how things will shake out.

“We really haven’t had a chance to get to know the boys,” he said. “But already after two weeks, we are liking what we see.”

What Jones sees is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to be back on the pitch, and some dynamic players like Lieto Hutchinson and Cole Toupin, who can fire the team’s offence.

But whether his squad can find that amalgam of talent and chemistry that can carry them to a sixth championship is still to be determined.

“A lot of things have to happen before then,” Jones said. “A little luck never hurts.”