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Lakehill has eyes on their first Jackson Cup

The venerable Jackson Cup has been the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s version of the FA Cup for 105 years.

The venerable Jackson Cup has been the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s version of the FA Cup for 105 years. As with the latter, its random draw has made for a century-plus of compelling early-round matches featuring heavyweights mixed with brackets featuring unheralded teams.

Case in point regarding the latter, the 2020 Jackson Cup draw conducted this week has No. 19 Prospect Lake Div. 2 awaiting in the first round Feb. 21-23 the winner of a play-in game between No. 16 Hellas Div. 2 and No. 13 Lakehill Div. 2 on Feb. 14-16. That bracket goes no higher than the No. 12 Highlanders Div. 2, who have drawn a first-round date with No. 20 Bays United Div. 2. So, a 12 through 20 seed is guaranteed to advance to the second round — which is the quarter-finals — Feb. 28-30.

The much-tougher associated bracket, leading to a semifinal game March 13-15, contains seeds 1 through 11. Fourth-ranked Cowichan FC Div. 1 and No. 7 Juan de Fuca Div. 1 have been drawn into a play-in game. Awaiting that play-in winner in the first round is top-ranked Lakehill Div. 1, featuring several former University of Victoria Vikes players such as Wes Barrett and Tarnvir Bhandal.

Lakehill leads the VISL Div. 1 with an 11-3 record but has never won the Jackson Cup. There are legitimate hopes this will finally be the year — especially considering there was a first-time Jackson Cup champion last season in Westcastle United.

“We have slowly climbed from Div. 2,” said Lakehill head coach Mark Bhopal.

“Now having the former UVic Vikes makes a big difference. They are such intelligent players and that makes my job a lot easier.”

A key part of the Lakehill mix are cagey veterans such as Jon Shah, who has 11 goals, and the seemingly ageless former pro Blair Sturrock, who has seven goals.

“Our players are really invested in process and working hard,” said Bhopal.

Third-ranked Gorge FC Div. 1 meets No. 11 Comox Div. 2 in the first round to complete that bracket in which Lakehill will play. That means Lakehill will have to likely go through both Cowichan and Gorge to achieve its dreams.

“Those are two very good teams. We have a tougher draw than Westcastle,” said Bhopal.

“That’s the way it goes. You have to stay healthy and need a bit of luck in cup play.”

Defending-champion Westcastle United Div. 1 is ranked second and meets 10th-ranked Mid-Isle Div. 1 in the first round on the other side of the draw.

Fate affected that other half of the draw, as well. Saanich Fusion Div. 2 is only ranked No. 15 but it gets a bye into the first round and will await the winner of a play-in game between higher-ranked No. 5 Bays United Div. 1 and No. 8 Nanaimo Div. 1.

In a section of low-ranking teams, No. 14 Gorge Div. 2 and No. 18 Nanaimo Div. 2 meet in a play-in game with the winner meeting No. 17 Fernwood Div. 2 in the first round. That means a 14th through 17th seed is guaranteed to make the quarter-finals against the winner of a first-round game between sixth-ranked Vic West Div. 1 and ninth-ranked Powell River Div. 1.

The Jackson Cup features the VISL Div. 1 and Div. 2 teams.

The 105th Jackson Cup final is March 28.