Aldergrove Totems make senior boys soccer history
The Aldergrove Community Secondary School Totems' senior boys’ soccer team finished the AA Provincial Championships unbeaten in game play, but the tournament format and tie-breaking procedure meant a seventh place finish for the Totems.
Day one saw the Totems control the game against DP Todd Secondary from Prince George. However, a foul against a DP Todd attacker on one of their rare forays into the Totems' end resulted in a converted penalty kick that ‘keeper Tavares Demelo nearly saved but a 1-0 DP Todd lead.
The Totems answered back with a Wes Lockhart penalty kick of their own after a DP Todd handball in the area to tie the game 1-1. Despite intense pressure from the Totems throughout the second half, DP Todd relied on stellar goalkeeping and a strictly defensive game plan to preserve the draw.
The afternoon match against St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) of North Vancouver was much more evenly matched. The Totems looked to have had the game won on a Nathan Dahl header with less than 10 minutes to play. However, a dubious call in injury time awarded STA a foul on the edge of the Aldergrove penalty area. The ensuing free kick found the top corner, and the Totems had their second draw of the day.
Aldergrove went into day two knowing that only the top team from each of the four pools would advance to the semi-finals of the championship round. They came out firing against Hugh Boyd of Richmond and left no doubt as to which the superior team was.
Goalkeeper Nagi Nakagawa earned the shutout, while another goal from Dahl, a single from co-captain Joel Waterman, and a brace from Gurmaan Jhaj sealed a 4-0 win for the Totems. This left Aldergrove tied with STA on points at the end of round robin pool play.
The tournament organizers informed Aldergrove that since the result between ACSS and STA in pool play was a draw, both teams would immediately take the field for a penalty kick shootout, despite ACSS having a superior goal differential. STA won the shootout 3-2, and would go on to win the championship, while the Totems’ hopes for a banner were dashed. They were left to contest for fifth through eighth place, starting with a match that afternoon against the Sa-Hali Spartans from Kamloops.
Feeling the heartbreak of the morning, the Totems went down a goal early. This spurred them on, and Aldergrove had huge advantages in territory and possession for the rest of the match. However, the Totems could not muster more than a lone Jhaj tally that earned them yet another draw, and yet another shootout. ACSS came out on the wrong end once more, falling 5-4 and getting relegated to the 7th/8th place game against Hugh McRoberts as a result.
Despite the sting of the previous days’ results, the Totems re-focused on a pair of goals: winning seventh place, and helping Jhaj to the Dominic Mobilio Golden Boot as the tournament’s top goal scorer. Jhaj started the day with three goals, four behind the leader from Archbishop Carney Secondary.
Aldergrove came out flying against the overmatched Hugh McRoberts side, with Ryan Witowich opening the scoring early. The story of this match, however, was that of all the players on the field coming together to help Jhaj win the Golden Boot, setting him up for six clinically finished goals, for a total of nine on the tournament. A second Witowich goal capped a comprehensive 8-0 victory.
Overall, the Aldergrove Totems placed seventh, higher than any other Aldergrove team before them, won the Fraser Valley championship for the first time in their history, and finished the entire year without a single loss in regulation game play.
In addition to the many parents, staff and classmates who supported the Totems throughout this season, the team which contributed to this unprecedented success are: Gurmaan Jhaj, Joel Waterman, Wes Lockhart, Tanner Cumiskey, Brad Wightman, Josh Power, Gurshaan Jhaj, Pietro Romegioli, Darrien Kristensen, Jonah Miller, Alex Snowden, Will Sitter, Nagi Nakagawa, Kohsuke Tsutsui, Ryan Witowich, Ryan Schmunk, Tavares Demelo, Nathan Dahl, Sean Connolly, Jimmy Zong, Ryota Shion, and coaches Aiden Power, Trent Waterman, Stuart Crowley and Brian Hunter.