A thrilling last-minute comeback fell just shy of a golden moment for the Argyle Pipers senior boys soccer team in the B.C. AAA provincial championship final played Saturday in Burnaby.
The Pipers won every single game this season leading into Saturday’s final against Victoria’s Reynolds Secondary at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West, but Argyle was behind 1-0 just three minutes into the championship match. The score stayed that way through most of the game, as the teams battled hard without finding the back of the net.
The breakthrough came with just two minutes left in the second half. With even Argyle star goalkeeper Lucas Robson joining the attack on a last-gasp corner kick, defender Carl Spat thumped a header off the post, with Oliver Fisher ready to pounce on the rebound, tucking it in for a stunning equalizer.
The teams then fought through 15 more minutes of overtime, but the score stayed tied, sending the final to penalty kicks. In the shootout, the Piper magic finally faded, as Argyle missed their first two shots while Reynolds scored four in a row, clinching the title.
The silver for the Pipers finished off a season that also saw them win the Carihi Invitational Tournament, the North Shore AAA league, the North Shore championship game (AAA league winner vs. AA league winner), and the Sea 2 Sky Zone Championship. Argyle head coach Darren Rath praised his team for putting together a near-perfect season.
“I believe Argyle was the best team in the province,” Rath told the North Shore News after the final. “We had excellent chances to score and win the match. Unfortunately, we missed our scoring opportunities and lost the gold medal in a penalty kick shootout.”
Sugamata was picked as Argyle’s representative on the Super 16 all-tournament team after setting up the tying goal in the final and scoring the winning goal in a 3-0 semifinal win over Terry Fox Secondary. Sugamata also set up a goal scored by Gavin Archer in a 1-0 win over Royal Bay that clinched first place in their group.
Other standout players this season included Robson, who nearly scored as many goals this season, four in total, as he allowed while playing every minute as goalkeeper, as well as top goal scorers Elliot Lupton, Caden Ruby, Riley Dunn and Bradley Holliday. Rath also noted Spat as the team’s top defender, Liam Nilsson as another defensive anchor, and midfielder Aiden Adams as the team’s unsung hero.
“I am extremely proud of our team,” said Rath. “This was one of the greatest Argyle soccer teams in our school history, with many players who have the ability to play at the university level and possibly professionally.”
At the AA level, North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas also hit the podium, earning bronze last week at Burnaby Lake. The Fighting Saints scored two big wins to open the tournament, helping them finish first in their group to earn a spot in the semifinals. In the semifinal, STA took a 1-0 lead into halftime against West View Secondary from Maple Ridge, but couldn’t hang on for the win, falling 2-1.
STA bounced back in the consolation final, getting a late goal to score a 1-0 win over Langley Christian to earn bronze.
“That loss was a tough pill to swallow for our side – we were one half away from playing in the provincial finals,” said STA’s Loui Salituro, who coaches the team with Fernando Grossling. “What impressed most, however, was how our boys were able to handle that loss, put it behind them and play their final game of the season for some hardware and a place on the podium.”
Team captain Luca Caffaro was picked as STA’s representative on the Super 16 all-tournament team, and was a driving force for the Saints all season, said Salituro.
“His ability to rally his teammates and have them all on the same page all season long was an integral part of our team’s success.”