L.A. Matheson head coach Manmeet Sahota is embraced by player Aman Sidhu after penalty-kicks victory over Handsworth Friday at the B.C. senior boys AAA soccer championships put the Mustangs in the schools first-ever B.C. varsity team final in any sport, in its 50th anniversary year. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Soccer

Surrey’s soccer gods are smiling! Panorama Ridge and L.A.Matheson will battle Saturday in a city derby for B.C. boys AAA title!

BURNABY — The Surrey soccer gods are smiling bright tonight.

For the first time in the history of the B.C. senior boys Triple A soccer championships, two Surrey schools will clash for the title Saturday morning (11:15 a.m.) at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex following narrow victories during Friday’s semifinal round.

Surrey’s Panorama Ridge Thunder, B.C.’s No. 1-ranked team and a runner-up to the title last season, claimed a 1-0 victory in the second of two semifinal games against the same team they lost to in that 2018 title match, the Vancouver College Fighting Irish.

In the first, Surrey’s L.A. Matheson Mustangs picked the perfect time to qualify for their first-ever B.C. senior varsity championship game in any sport, boys or girls, after they went finished regulation knotted at 0-0, then went to overtime and later penalties to beat North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals on the fifth round of kicks.

“This is such a big deal at our school,” said Matheson head coach Manmeet Sahota, whose team qualified for the final in the school’s 50th year of existence. “To have never made it for 50 years, boys or girls…that is why it’s so special.”

Matheson’s Harvir Gill was denied on two first-half free kicks, one off a diving save by Handsworth keeper Jamie Gunter and the other by the corner crossbar.

Handsworth assumed control of second-half play for long stretches and both teams enjoyed solid chances in late in regulation and in overtime.

The Handsworth Royals and L.A. Matheson Mustangs played an instant classic Friday at Burnaby Lakes. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

However in the penalty kick session, L.A. Matheson took a 3-2 lead after four kicks apiece when Aman Sidhu scored for the Mustangs, and keeper Dapinder Singh made a clutch leg save on Handsworth’s Sascha Sweatman.

Matheson’s Moe Abdi then iced it to start the fifth round.

Afterwards, Sahota answered questions about midfielder Gill, who had opened the scoring in the penalty kick session, and keeper Singh, whose two saves were crucial.

“Hanvir is one of the best creators, he controls the game through the midfield,” said Sahota. “He is kind of our engine and he dictates how we play. And without Dapinder Singh, we wouldn’t have even made the provincials. That’s how good he has been.”

Added Handsworth head coach Cosmo Valente: “We were trying for first, now we’re battling for third and fourth. It’s heartbreaking to lose on PK’s, but it’s part of the game.”

For the Mustangs, Friday’s win was significant for another reason.

“We made the provincials for the first time four years ago,” added coach Sahota, “and today was our third straight year in the semifinals.”

Panorama Ridge’s Saeed Khan skies for a header above Vancouver College’s Alberto Kuri in a Friday semifinal at Burnaby Lakes. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

It goes without saying it was their first win at this stage of the event. Last year, in fact, the Mustangs bowed out one win shy of the provincial final by losing to Panorama Ridge.

Earlier this post-season, as part of the inaugural South Fraser zone championships, L.A. Matheson dropped a 1-0 decision to the Thunder.

Saturday’s title match is already steeped with historical plotlines but there is no question that these underdog Mustangs would love to write a most fitting final chapter to the greatest sports season in the 50-year history of their school.

Yet either way, it’s the greatest season in the history of Surrey senior boys high school soccer.

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