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Vic West hoists Jackson Cup for first time in 34 years

It has been an epic climb back for club
Vic West goalie Oleksandt Harapa and Marcus Campanile go up for the ball against Lakehill during the Jackson Cup championship game at Starlight Stadium on Saturday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Vic West ended a 34-year drought while Lakehill FC’s will continue into a 68th year. The Wests defeated Lakehill on penalties in a dramatic Saturday evening before a large gallery at Starlight Stadium, to lift the Jackson Cup for the first time since 1989 despite being down to 10 players for the entirety of the second half. Regulation time ended 2-2 before Vic West won the kicks 5-4 from the spot.

The Jackson Cup is the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s version of the FA Cup in England and Copa del Rey in Spain and has been contested since 1915.

Vic West, the oldest soccer club in Canada at 126 years old, won its 23rd Jackson Cup but first since the Berlin Wall still had eight months left to stand and Brian Mulroney was in 24 Sussex Drive.

It has been an epic climb back for a club that won six B.C. and four Canadian championships in the 1970s and 1980s only to fall to the depths in the Fourth Division and having to win three promotions since 2009 just to get back to the First Division.

“This is massive for us. Not a single player on our team was alive the last time Vic West won the Jackson Cup,” said coach Derek deGroot.

“We inherited this history and are writing our own chapter in it.”

What a chapter it has been with Vic West’s home Finlayson field at Topaz Park out of commission with new turf being installed. The Wests played its home games from Saanich to Sooke this season.

The tale took another twist Saturday with the starting Wests goaltender red-carded just as the first half ended. Back-up goaltender Jack Garner, a 17-year-old call-up from the Vancouver Island Wave who backstopped the Reynolds Roadrunners to the B.C. high school championship this season, played the second half in goal for Vic West and then stopped four out of five of the Gunners’ shots in the penalty portion.

“Nobody expected this to happen but I treated it like I was going into any other game,” said the cool and composed Garner, headed next season to the UBC Thunderbirds in U Sports.

Kaelan Cooke, a 21-year-old Reynolds grad out of the Island Wave, scored both Vic West goals in regulation.

“This is amazing for the oldest club in Canada to return [to the podium] like this,” said Cooke.

“We talk about the history and are proud of having accomplished this today to add to Vic West [lore].

“And to do it a man short, after winning our semifinal game with two players red-carded and off. Maybe we play better short-manned. This was nerve-wracking, just the same.”

In a sweet nod to the past, the Jackson Cup was presented to Vic West after the game by Norm “Stormin Normin” Richardson, 97, who played on Vic West’s 1951 Jackson Cup championship team.

Lakehill was formed in 1956 in Arsenal kit, with the only difference being the cannon in the logo is facing the opposite direction, and has been the recent-years VISL regular-season powerhouse with consecutive Garrison Cup VISL First Division regular-season championships. But the Jackson Cup again proved elusive for the Gunners, who have never won it.

“I thought we were the better team in regulation but we didn’t get the end product,” said Blair Sturrock, the former Plymouth Argyle and Bournemouth pro, who scored both the Lakehill goals in regulation.

“Vic West maintained good shape and we couldn’t buy it.”

Vic West and Lakehill, along with three other VISL teams in the regular-season top-five, now enter the B.C. playdowns for the Province Cup.