As champions of the north central double-A boys league the previous two seasons, the D.P. Todd Trojans have had enough bone-chattering days on snowy soccer pitches to last a lifetime.
Sunday at Rotary Field, the weather gods finally cut them some slack and treated the Trojans to a warm and sunny October afternoon as they tried for their third straight zone championship while taking on the Duchess Park Condors.
But it wasn't so much the weather but the weathering process that made the difference in the Trojans' 2-0 triumph. They came to the field with a veteran-stacked lineup that the youthful Condors were unable to match and as a result have booked themselves a berth in the provincial tournament, starting Nov. 18 in Burnaby.
Trojan striker Anthony Mijacovic was a constant thorn in the Condors' side and it didn't take long for the Grade 11 veteran to find the net. Fourteen minutes into the game, Mijacovic redirected a crossing pass from Tanner Williams and booted it past goalie Jonah Cheverfils. The Trojans doubled their lead at the 25-minute mark on a perfect strike from midfielder Jan Sondergeld. His 35-yard rainbow landed in the back of the net over Cheverfils' outstretched arms.
"We played well in the first half and they couldn't control us," said Mijacovic, who also nailed the crossbar not long after his opening goal. "We have a lot of depth and they're a younger team. We took a rough fall about a month ago with some harsh injuries to players who never came back, but we played through it and played hard and got the win."
Missing injured regulars Sean Gaiesky, Jordan Mior and Manni Dhemi, the Trojans relied on their abundance of Grade 11 and 12 veterans and that led to plenty of golden opportunities up front for the likes of Mijacovic, Ryan Gaiesky, Tanner Williams and Carlos Cassaquero-Quintini.
The Condors defeated the College Heights Cougars only a few short hours earlier in a semifinal playoff and their tired legs showed in the early going against the Trojans, who kept the ball pinned in the Condors' end for most of the first 40-minute half. Sondergeld's insurance goal allowed the Trojans to focus more on their defence. The Trojans backfield, led by Cayle Davidson, Ramon Bhangu and Lucas Ens, overpowered the Condors attackers, keeping them well out of scoring range close to the sidelines and only rarely allowed their opponents into the middle of the field.
"Our goal was to come out with a bunch of intensity and push them right from the start and get up a few goals and then set back and play a defensive game, because that's what we're better at, and it worked out quite well for us," said Trojans coach Matt Jubinville. "I've been telling Jan to hit the ball, he has a good hit and it was a great shot."
The Trojans' defensive shell started to show a few cracks in the second half and their opponents finally got some pressure on goalie Josh Quarin. John Botelho launched a rocket at the 50-minute mark that flew over the net, and he and Isaac Whetter just missed getting their feet on Anthony Preston's perfectly-placed sideline feed into the crease, right at the final whistle.
"We really tightened up in the back and got some more opportunities than we did in the first half," said Botelho, a Grade 11 midfielder. "We have a lot of Grade 8s and Grade 9s on our team and they have a lot of senior kids so we'll have a lot of development and hopefully we'll come out on top next year."