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Challenge Cup soccer: Feildians may be in position to end 50-year drought

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They were runners-up in regular-season standings, but the first-place finisher hasn't come away with the title in the last three years

They’re unencumbered by the curse that has plagued first-place teams in recent years. Nevertheless, there should definitely be more than that to whatever hopefulness Feildians are taking into the Johnson Insurance Challenge Cup playoffs next weekend on the Burin Peninsula, where the St. John’s-based team will be seeking its first provincial men’s soccer crown in half a century.

The Double Blues, sponsored by Stavanger Dental, were runners-up to the first place and two-time defending champion Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders in the 2019 Challenge Cup regular season that concluded earlier this week, and they finished off their schedule with a six-game undefeated streak (three wins, three ties).

That left Feildians nine points behind the Crusaders. whom they’ll face in Friday’s 1-2 Page playoff game.

History will play in support of Holy Cross, which has won 20 Challenge Cups, compared to just Feildians’ single title, achieved way back in 1969.

However, this season, they were quite close statistically, with Holy Cross’s balanced offence producing 57 goals, while Feildians, led by league-leading scorer Tyler Forsey, collected 55 tallies over a 20-game schedule.

Defensively, the Crusaders allowed a league-low 18 goals, while the Double Blues gave up 24.

The biggest difference came in their head-to-head meetings.

Holy Cross went 3-1-1 in five games against Feildians, outscoring them 9-5 in the process. However, it is worth noting that all three of the Crusaders’ victories were by a single goal.

And then there’s that first-place thing.

In the last three seasons, the top team in the regular season didn’t claim the Challenge Cup title on the playoff weekend.

Last year, Feildians finished first, but it was second-place Holy Cross that came away with the crown. In 2017, the St. Lawrence Laurentians topped the table, but the Crusaders were champions that year, too. In 2016, Holy Cross was first, but the Laurentians, who were third in the regular season, emerged as the ultimate victors.

The winner of Friday’s 1-2 game at St. Lawrence’s Centennial Field will advance directly to the Sunday, Sept. 1 final. The loser remain alive to play in a Saturday, Aug. 31 semifinal, where the opponent will be the winner of Friday night’s 3-4 game between the Conception Bay South That Pro Look Strikers and host Laurentians.

The Friday matchups will be the same as in last year’s playoffs at King George V Park in St. John’s, but with role reversals. In 2018, second-place Holy Cross blanked Feildians 2-0 in the 1-2 game, while third-place St. Lawrence shut out the Strikers in the 3-4 contest.

Holy Cross romped to a 5-0 win over the Laurentians in the final.

Using a stingy defence — they allowed 20 goals in 20 games — the Strikers were third this season, their best-ever showing, and claimed a second straight playoff berth after finishing out of the playoffs during the rest of this decade.

St. Lawrence struggled to an unfamiliar fourth-place finish, but will be buoyed by a proud history — the Laurentians have won 25 provincial Challenge Cups, more than any other team — and will enjoy the home-pitch advantage of Centennial Field, the only non-artificial surface facility in the league.

The eventual champion will be the province’s lone representative in the national Challenge Cup tournament to be held in the metro St. John’s area in mid-October.

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Forsey scores another title

He’s only 26, but the Challenge Cup scoring title claimed by Feildians’ Tyler Forsey this season was the fifth of his provincial men’s soccer career.

Tyler Forsey
Tyler Forsey

The five scoring titles for Forsey, who averaged better than a goal per contest (21 goals in 19 games) in 2019, have come in the last seven seasons. However, he has taken part in Challenge Cup play for more than a decade, beginning in 2009 as a 16-year-old minor-aged, part-time player with Mount Pearl.

In all, Forsey has 162 goals in his Challenge Cup career, which has seen him suit up with Holy Cross, St. Lawrence, Feildians and Mount Pearl.

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Final Standings

Team                 GP     W     L     T     Pts     GF   GA

Holy Cross         20     16     3     1     49     57     18

Feildians            20     12     4     4     40     55      24

C.B.S. Strikers   20     10     7     3     33     28     20

St. Lawrence     20     6     11     3     21      30     48

Paradise            20     0     19     1     1      14      74

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Leading scorers

Player, team                     GP     G

Tyler Forsey, FL                19     21

Jacob Grant, HC               17     16

Stefan Slaney, SL             19     11

Aaron Buckingham, FL      13     7

Felly Elonda, FL                 16     7

Nico Boehme, C.B.S.         13     6

Daniel Agbesse, C.B.S.     17     5

Tyler Kirby, HC                   17     5

Harry Carter, HC                18     5

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