(Photo Credits: VISL)
The day was done, Champions were crowned, and what started out as a rather mild Saturday in the first final of the afternoon ended with one of the craziest Jackson Cup Finals that can be remembered as the 2022/2023 Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) season wrapped up in some style at Starlight Stadium in Langford.
The Sir John Jackson Cup Final saw a dramatic win in penalty kicks for Vic West, who defeated back-to-back league champions Lakehill 5-4 on spot kicks after the match finished 2-2 after 90 minutes of twists, turns, and lots of talking points.
Close to 1500 fans were treated to an exhilarating game that had a bit of everything and saw Vic West crowned Jackson Cup champions for the 23rd time in their history, but for the first time since 1989.
Lakehill looked to be in control of the match, but it was Kaelan Cooke of Vic West who ended up breaking the deadlock and stunning the league champions in the 29th minute, and that was just to be the start of a wild remainder of the match.
Vic West’s happiness at heading in with a lead was soon to be upset when they lost their goalkeeper Oleksandr Harapa to a straight red card just before the half ended, after an offensive gesture was caught by the referee.
This set the scene for reserve call-up keeper Jack Garner, a 17-year-old youth player still in high school, to hit the main stage and he seized his opportunity to shine with both gloves.
If anybody in the area was sleeping, their nap was officially over as Starlight Stadium got loud.
The second Half saw Lakehill draw level with a 67th minute goal from Blair Sturrock, but Cooke was able to put the Vic West back up by a goal when he broke clear and knocked it past the onrushing keeper for his and his side’s second of the game 10 minutes later.
The ten men of Vic West were under pressure as Lakehill pushed hard for another equaliser, but just as they thought they were going to hold on, up stepped wily veteran Sturrock to get his second of the game in stoppage time, sending the game directly to penalty kicks.
Garner saved the first penalty that Lakehill took, the rest were scored by both teams, and that was it. Vic West were champions again for the first time in 34 years. And in a lovely touch, on hand to help with the Jackson Cup presentation was 97-year-old Norm Richards, who won the Jackson Cup in 1951/1952 with Vic West.
Receiving the Denny Girvin Memorial Award for the Man of the Match was Vic West’s young goalkeeper Jack Garner.
You can watch a full match replay of the final HERE.
In the day’s other finals, the Over 35 Masters battle between Gorge FC and Cowichan 49ers saw Cowichan lift the Tony Grover Memorial Cup with a 4-0 victory thanks to goals from Stuart Barker, Neall Rowlings, and a brace from Bradley Archibald. Securing another clean sheet for Cowichan was goalkeeper Darian Achurch. Game MVP, earning engraving rights on the Alex Hylan Memorial Trophy, was defensive stalwart Jesse Winter, selected for his tireless work on the backline and helping prevent some of the early Gorge pressure from resulting in a goal.
The first game of the day was the George Pearkes Challenge Cup final between Gorge FC and Cook Street United. Gorge FC took the championship with a 4-1 victory. Gorge won the trophy thanks to goals from Aidan Way, Brendan Liudzius, Jamie Zawacki, and Anthony Pascuzzi, and they also scored in their own net for Cook Street’s only goal of the game. The player acknowledged for game MVP, and accepting the Kjeld Brodsgaard Trophy, was Aidan Way of Gorge.
The VISL season has now come to an end, and some teams will not have much rest as they prepare for BC Soccer’s Provincial Cups which start Friday March 31. Thanks to all for supporting grassroots soccer and the players that work, live and play in your community.