BURNABY — Hands down winner for brightest smile on the pitch Friday as the B.C. senior boys high school AAA Coastal soccer championships wrapped up its semifinal matches as a prelude to its championship Saturday here at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex?
Take a bow, Remi Bardot.
The effervescent Grade 11 winger for Victoria’s Reynolds Roadrunners twice did the deed from set pieces, including his sublime, seeing-eye free kick from about 22 yards out in the second half which proved to be the winner in a 2-1 Final Four win over Surrey’s defending B.C. champion Panorama Ridge Thunder.
“It’a grind in this tournament and it always is,” admitted Reynolds’ head coach J.J. Atterbury, whose side led 1-0 at the half, and had enough to absorb a late Thunder strike to hold on for the win.
“We have some depth in this group which is really important, and it’s been a real team effort to get us here,” he added. “Now, we’re really looking forward to tomorrow.”
That’s when Reynolds opposes North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers, a 3-1 winner over PoCo’s Riverside Rapids in the day’s other semifinal, in a 2021 re-start title game which just happens to be a re-match of the 2016 B.C. championship final.
And from the capital city crew’s perspective, thank goodness they not only had all of that depth, but as well, all of the flair which Barbot brought to the dance.
Off a first-half corner, Barbot’s instinctive near-post run provided him the occasion to nod home the contest’s opening marker.
Then, in the second half, he both bent and buried a free kick, tucking it under the bar past a wall of Thunder players and the keeper to count the game winner.
Panorama struck late, also off a set piece, when Kevin Penafiel converted a header to wrap up the scoring.
“At the end of the day, it was two really solid teams and I am sure some very tired legs out there for both teams,” said Panorama Ridge co-coach Darrell Fast. “But it was like you like to see in a semifinal. Anytime we play Reynolds, we get a great game, and we tip our hat to J.J. and his boys.”
Panorama Ridge, entered its group play stage Friday locked in a four-way tie with its pool’s three other teams, and needed not only a victory, but a goal-differential tiebreaker to get past Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs.
And that kind of play, to Thunder co-coach Derek Duke, exemplified a level of play he and his rival coaches admitted over the past two days, was tighter and more hotly-contested than any tournament in recent memory.
“You heard this sentiment from every coach in this tournament, and that was that this was harder than any provincial championship we can remember,” said Duke. “That is no offence to the other teams that were not here, but the replacement teams were more than just quality sides. We lost our first game to (replacement team) Heritage Woods, and from there, we had to show that we could bounce back.”
Now, as Saturday’s final day of the season is set, Reynolds will face Argyle in a rematch of the 2016 final won by the Roadrunners on penalty kicks.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” said Atterbury of facing the Pipers. “They are so well-coached and they always are, but I know our guys are really keen and excited for it. And really, especially the Grade 12s, we’re just happy, after last season, to be able to play again.”
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