“Job’s not done.”
It was a wild scene last night at what is now being dubbed the "Rovers Nation Fortress," but despite winning their semifinal game, Simcoe County Rovers FC players and team officials know there is one more win to go.
J.C. Massie Field at Georgian College in Barrie was packed Sunday night to watch the Rovers defeat the Vaughan Azzurri, 3-0, to advance to the League1 Ontario championship game this coming weekend.
This is the Rovers second year in the league and the club has made the playoffs both seasons, but this will be their first shot at the league title, which is set for Saturday, Sept. 2 at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan beginning at 7 p.m.
The local team has said there were up to 1,200 fans in attendance at Sunday’s semifinal game in Barrie, a league playoff record and believed to be the second largest crowd overall.
The supporters' club, known as The Barbarriens, helped provide a show for the event as they handed out blue and white sheets of plastic for fans to wave at the start of the games while supporter members helped up a massive sheet of cloth with the Spirit Catcher drawn on it and the words "Our Club, Our City, Your Nightmare."
The Barrie Pipes and Drums also led the teams on to the pitch and created a loud atmosphere for the pre-game event.
Local dignitaries, League1 Ontario officials and even soccer celebrities such as former Canadian men’s national team player and Major League Soccer legend Dwayne De Rosario were on hand for the Rovers victory.
This, according to many Rovers officials who were talking on the sideline during the game, was the sports culture change they hoped for.
And having been at the game, they’re not wrong.
People came from as far away as Grimsby and North Bay for the match, as well as all over Simcoe County.
Parents cheered with new friends they met as their kids either watched or kicked a ball around with each other near the pitch.
Merchandise was sold at record lengths, as was the concession stand grub.
The fans were loud ... really loud.
There was talk of the recent women’s World Cup and the upcoming World Cup for the men in 2026 that will partially be played in Toronto and Vancouver.
As I went to get a drink from the concession stand, an older man was explaining to a younger one about the technical points of the game.
I asked the younger guy if he watched soccer and he said this was his first live game, but that he tried to get into it during the recent women’s event to cheer Canada on. He admitted to being hooked now and was going to begin looking for teams in England to support and watch.
I took a chance to tell him about my favourite English squad — Everton.
No go. He said he’d never heard of them and asked if they were on TV.
If you could block a person in real life like on Facebook, I would have done it right then.
But the best thing I heard, as a fan of footy and the team, was from their CEO Peter Raco.
The team was up late in the game and everyone knew that with time winding down, they had this game. Some guys around Raco were full of confidence and essentially celebrating.
Raco’s response? “Job’s not done.”
They are on the brink of the biggest victory in the club’s short history, 1,200 people are cheering and celebrating, and they are one win away from becoming League1 Ontario champions.
But to a guy who helped bring the organization to Barrie, it was very clear. The job’s not done. Clear and concise.
This coming Saturday, the Rovers have to defeat a tough Scrosoppi FC, who play out Milton. They finished five points ahead of the Rovers for first place this year.
The Rovers are planning a bus to get fans to the game on Saturday and ask fans to keep checking their social media and website for details.
Team officials, players and fans are hoping the job gets done.
Shawn Gibson is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.