Victoria Highlanders are League 1 BC Champions!!

by Fran Bartolillo

HISTORY was made this past weekend, as the Highlanders beat TSS Rovers in the final game of the season to secure the League 1 BC regular season title and punch their ticket to the 2024 Canadian Championship! 

It was a must win game for the Highlanders, who were tied in points with TSS, but would finish second place if they lost or tied the game due to the tie-breaker being goal difference. 

TSS Rovers showed their strength for much of the first half, dominating possession and taking the lead half way through the first half. The Highlanders would respond with a pair of chances that came close, but didn't quite cross the line. However, late in the first half the Highlanders would draw level off a Mechael Henman goal that came from a scramble in the box! 

Tied at the half the Highlanders knew they would need to find a way to win the second half if they wanted to capture the title and earn the berth to the 2024 Canadian Championship!

The second half began similar to the first, with TSS enjoying much of the possession, but the Highlanders looked confident in their defending. 

The game would stay locked at one's until the 70th minute when TSS forward Ivan Mejia beat the Highlanders defender and slotted it into the back of the net. 

Highlanders would make some subs and throw on all their attacking power from the bench as they looked to try and claw back from the 2-1 deficit. 

Fast forward to the 90th minute, Highlanders still trailing 2-1 but have a free kick in a dangerous area. The substitute, David Schaefer, steps up and hits an absolute laser, beating the TSS keeper and giving the Highlanders a glimpse of hope. 

5 highlanders players lined up at the halfway line, ready to pounce as soon as the ref blows the whistle to restart the game. The whistle blows and the ball gets passed backwards, 5 Highlanders chase it down. The ball gets passed backwards again, and again 5 highlanders continue the press! Finally, the Rovers decide to kick the ball forward, but to their shock, Michael Henman gets a block on it, propelling the ball back towards the TSS box. After a frantic scramble that saw multiple players hit the ground inside. the box, the referee blows his whistle.... Penalty kick for the Highlanders! 

The man who scored a free kick just 2 minutes earlier, David Schaefer, now has the chance to put the Highlanders in the lead and send them to the 2024 Canadian Championship. 

Schaefer calmly places the ball on the spot and takes a few steps back. The referee blows his whistle and Schaefer begins his run up. You could feel the entire stadium standing still, waiting to see if the Highlanders forward can complete the unimaginable comeback. The TSS Rovers keeper dives left, the beautifully struck ball goes right and hits the back of the net! It's 3-2 Highlanders!!! 

Highlanders would hold on for what felt like a life time, and the final whistle blows. The Victoria Highlanders are League 1 BC regular season champions!!!