COQUITLAM — You’re the defending champs and you’ve welcomed an octet of eight key players back into the team from last November’s memorable run through the B.C. AAA tournament.
Yet as Dr. Charles Best head coach Dave Jones spoke Tuesday morning, just ahead of his team’s opening match at the 2018 Fraser Valley senior boys AAA soccer championships against Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth Royals (5-2-2), the issue of incredible parity, both in the conference and around the province makes it an incredibly risky proposition for even a reigning champ heavy in returning numbers to count on anything less than a dog-fight from whomever they may happen to be facing.
“We’re hoping we can get to the tourney,” Jones said of the B.C. championships, Nov. 22-24 at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. “Our depth will help, but getting through the Fraser Valley won’t be a cakewalk, and it comes with its own set of challenges.”
The Blue Devils opened the season at No. 1 in the preseason rankings, and although a fresh Top 10 hasn’t been issued until this week, taking scan of the latest poll shows not only how many great teams there are around the province, but that five of the Top 10 are from the Fraser Valley with three other member schools part of the honourable mention crew.
1 Oak Bay Bays (Victoria) (PS-6)
2 L.A. Matheson Mustangs (Surrey) (NR)
3 Abbotsford Panthers (NR)
4 Terry Fox Ravens (Port Coquitlam) (NR)
5 Burnaby Central Wildcats (NR)
6 Sentinel Spartans (West Vancouver) (NR)
7 Panorama Ridge Thunder (Surrey) (4)
8 Reynolds Roadrunners (Victoria) (2)
9 Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils (Coquitlam) (1)
10 Vancouver College Fighting Irish (NR)
Honourable mention — R.A. McMath Wildcats (Richmond) (NR), Enver Creek Cougars (Surrey) (NR), Tamanawis Wildcats (Surrey) (HM), South Kamloops Titans (NR), Sardis Falcons (Chilliwack) (HM)
(Numeral in parenthesis indicates preseason ranking, HM-honourable mention, NR-not ranked)
Interestingly enough, after current No. 1 Oak Bay of Victoria, the next five teams were not ranked to start the season.
They include up-and-coming No. 2-ranked L.A. Matheson Mustangs of Surrey, as well as the No. 3 Abbotsford Panthers and No. 4 Terry Fox Ravens.
It was the undefeated Ravens (6-0-2) who won the Fraser Valley’s tough North Division, with Best and Heritage Woods of Port Moody (5-1-2) locked right below, followed by Coquitlam’s Pinetree (5-2-1) and Centennial (5-3-0).
Last season’s two finalists — Best and Surrey’s Panorama Ridge Thunder — check in at Nos. 7 and 9 respectively.
The top seven Valley teams advance to the 16-team B.C. championships.
Burnaby Central’s Wildcats, West Vancouver’s Sentinel Spartans and the Vancouver College Fighting Irish are aiming to bring Burnaby, North Shore and Van City representation to the B.C. tournament.
Oak Bay and last season’s semifinalists, the Bays’ crosstown rivals from Reynolds Secondary, are the two Vancouver Island powers.
Of course the one thing all teams can count once they get to provincials and are playing outside of the familiarity of their respective leagues, is not knowing much or anything about their opposition.
“The strategy for us going into these games is to just put out a strong defensive lineup,” says Jones of last season’s run through the B.C. tournament. “You start conservative until you get a feel for the game after 15-to-20 minutes. At that point you can begin to adjust your formation and your personnel.”
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