In a fitting duel against a familiar foe, the margin came down to one goal and little else.
The Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils reclaimed the B.C. boys AAA soccer crown on Saturday by slipping past the Terry Fox Ravens 1-0 in Burnaby. Add a side order of revenge and you've got an enticing story - something lacking in Sunday's Grey Cup game.
"It was a fantastic day - I couldn't begin to top it," said Blue Devils head coach Giovanni Valente. "I can't express how well prepared the boys were to play that game."
Preparation was a huge element in the contest, as both squads were playing their fifth game in three days. Fresh in both teams minds was a 3-1 Ravens win in the Fraser Valley semifinals. Fox, who were full marks for their march to the Valley final two weeks earlier, were no less motivated.
In the end, the sole difference was Michael Mobilio's strike midway through the opening half, earning Best its third B.C. title in four years.
"It was a good build-up and good run by Michael (Mobilio), and a better through ball by (Tyler) Da Silva," remarked midfielder Kyle Jones, who would earn the tourney's Most Valuable Player award.
Although the Blue Devils had an edge in play, Fox threatened a couple of times. A single goal didn't look to be enough - which was a fact in North league play, where only one of 28 games finished with a single tally.
"It could have come down to a number of possibilities but Naz (Best goalkeeper Nazzareno Russo) stood on his head," noted Jones.
The Blue Devils, who were banned from provincial competition last season due to an after-game incident following their championship victory in the 2010 B.C. final, put tremendous focus this year on demonstrating a sincere respect for the opposition and the game.
"That was our No. 1 goal to start the season," Valente said. "To show respect to the opposition and put our best effort on the pitch."
It's exactly what they delivered, too.
For the Ravens, who won a dramatic 3-2 penalty kick decision over Burnaby South a day earlier to advance to the final, fatigue began to add up.
Goalkeeper Bryce Rickaby made two crucial saves in penalty kicks to lock up Fox's berth into the final.
"We stressed to the team to keep our play simple, make good decisions, and shut down their space by pressuring the ball," recalled Fox coach John Murphy. "For the first 10, 15 minutes we did just that. Unfortunately we started to lose our focus and we made some costly turnovers in the middle of the pitch which ultimately lead to their one and only goal."
Among the standouts for the PoCo school in their long run to the final were seniors Jacob Kortenbach, Adam Hoo and Kevin Roh, and Gr. 11 Luke Griffin.
Best bumped Tamanawis 2-1 in its semifinal and staked out a solid lead on markers from Mobilio and Da Silva.
The two Fraser Valley North league rivals and cross-district squads share more than territory - a number of players toil on the same club team, the Coquitlam Metro-Ford under16 Barca.
That familiarity and energy provided an additional spark to what had been a tremendous run for both clubs.
"We've played them two times before, playing to a tie and losing to them (in the Fraser Valley tournament)," recalled Valente. "I didn't need a big speech to remind them of what this meant - the winner will have this game over his clubmate (from the opposing team) forever."
Russo was named the tourney's top goalkeeper, while teammate Tanner Roughead was among the Commissioners 11 all stars. Also selected to the all-star list were Adam Hoo of Fox and Heritage Woods' Shaun Pilcher.
Heritage Woods finished 12th overall with a 1-4 record.
The Best roster includes Grade 12s Michael Celio, Lucas Krivak, Leandro Lopez-Acosta, Jordan Magnuson, Roughead and captain Giovanni Carida, Gr. 11s Matthew Budai, Trevor Hallman, Felitche Hutchinson, Michael Mobilio, Ryan Mobilio, Carlos Nino, Taylor Witala, Jun Yamanaka, Da Silva, Jones and Russo, Gr. 10s Jacob Georgas, Tanner Jones, Levi McMillan, Graham Miller, Nikeil Mistry and Eddie Verones, and Gr. 9 Jared Horvath.