BURNABY — When the Reynolds Roadrunners won the B.C. senior boys AAA soccer championships back in 2016, it marked the program’s first-ever crown and it came on the occasion of the Victoria school’s 50th anniversary.
All of which led Roadrunners head coach JJ Atterbury to tell veteran reporter Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times-Colonist afterwards: “I guess it just goes to show how hard it is to win this thing.”
Truer words could not have been spoken, and so the fact that Reynolds was able to come back five years later and turn the trick again is able testament to the fact that into its second half-century, that soccer remains such a vibrant part of the school’s athletic DNA.
Combine the travel, the rain, the hazards of group play and the grit needed to complete the event’s marathon schedule, and there is no question that the Roadrunners — with two of the last five season-ending titles won — have ascended to that place among the province’s handful of elite teams.
“There were a lot of good teams there, and then you play five games in three days… it’s a grind,” Atterbury said Monday morning on a break from classes, reflecting back on his team’s 1-0 B.C. AAA Coastal title-game win over North Vancouver’s equally gritty-and-determined Argyle Pipers. “Fortunately, we were able to have some depth on this squad, and we seemed to get better over the course of the season, and in particular over the course of this tournament. We peaked at the right time.”
Curiously enough, back in 2016, when the seniors on the current Reynolds team were just seventh-graders, the Roadrunners also beat Argyle in the final, that year going to penalty kicks (4-3) after a scoreless regulation and overtime.
This time around, the winner was counted in the 69th minute by Grade 11 winger Remi Barbot, fresh off his heroics the day before, when he scored both of his team’s goals in a 2-1 semifinal win over Surrey’s defending B.C. champion Panorama Ridge Thunder.
“I thought there was a bit of a poor attempt to clear the ball,” explained Barbot who got some great service from fellow winger Isaac Tate. “I got on top of it, and I put it in the back of the net.”
Just like back in 2016, there was not a whole lot to separate Reynolds and Argyle.
“I know Argyle, and they are such a well-coached, technical team, so I guess you could say that going in, we were just committed to doing the work,” Atterbury said of a no-frills attitude which wound up being worn on the sleeves of both teams. “We tried to play our game with discipline and then to take advantages of our opportunities. But the intensity that both teams showed, especially playing that fifth game in three days, was incredible.”
Added Barbot: “Argyle was extremely talented, and they really wanted to play a possession-style game. They played a very physical game.”
Reynolds got exceptional senior service from players like central midfielder Rio Schafer, forward Leon Lafuente and centre-back Kieran Robertson among others.
Panorama Ridge defeated Riverside 1-0 to finish third, Nanaimo District went to penalty kicks to defeat Centennial for fifth, Dr. Charles Best beat Kitsilano 2-1 to finish seventh.
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