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Photo: San Juan Jabloteh’s Raheem Mohan (right) tries to elude two Cunupia Extreme players during RBNYL Under-11 action at Constantine Park in Macoya on 10 June 2017. Jabloteh won 2-0. ...(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
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The top eastern clubs have now laid down their markers for next Saturday’s RBNYL’s national quarterfinals.

The goals never stopped flowing when the final preliminary round took centre-stage at Constantine Park in Macoya yesterday. And by the time the last ball had been kicked and the final instructions and congratulations had been delivered by the coaches, San Juan Jabloteh, Cunupia Extreme and Crown Trace FC stood atop the three age categories in the Republic Bank National Youth League (RBNYL) East Zone.

In the Under-11 division, Jabloteh, Trincity Nationals and Defence Force were already assured of advancing to the national quarterfinals. However, with just two points separating Defence Force from the top of the table heading into yesterday’s action, the young “soldiers” would have had hopes of turning back Jabloteh and going to the summit themselves.

Not for nothing, though, are Jabloteh known as the “San Juan Kings” and the San Juan youngsters stayed perfect throughout the Under-11 Division, scoring the lone goal to prevail 1-0 over Defence Force in a keenly contested match before beating Cunupia Extreme 2-0.

The sight of former national standout Angus Eve cheering on the opposing team did little to intimidate the Jabloteh youngsters as Cameron Nelson’s 20th minute item proved to be just enough.

There was some late drama in the encounter, though, as Jabloteh’s Lindell Sween saw a beauty of a left-footed shot tipped on to the post by the Defence Force goalkeeper while on the opposite end the lively Kade Collier smashed his shot just over the bar.

Jabloteh’s subsequent win over Cunupia Extreme meant that they collected all 24 points on offer in the Under-11 Division.

However, even if the well-oiled unit had thought that the result was a foregone conclusion, they got a timely reminder from the mother of an opposition player who flung this question at the Jabloteh coaching staff as the coach looked set to have a word or two to say to his team:

“I thought we were going to get eight?”

Taking the jab in good part, the cheerful Jabloteh coach could find only this factual but tame response, “We got the three points.”

While Cunupia’s Under-11’s couldn’t get the job done against Jabloteh, the story was different among the Under-13s where the two met in a pivotal encounter. The Central Trinidad side showed that they were worthy enough to dine with kings.

Before the start of the day’s proceedings, Jabloteh, with 13 points, sat third on the nine-team table while Cunupia, with two games still to play, were in sixth position with 11 points. Trincity Nationals were in top spot with 17 points. That made the game against Jabloteh a virtual knockout affair and Cunupia brought their A-game.

Jabloteh’s Romario Power may have got carried away by the importance of the affair, cleaning up a Cunupia attacker as he led an attempted counter-attack in only the fourth minute. He may have a Brazilian legend’s name but his power tackle was one that would have done Portugal international defender Pepe proud.

It seemed to set the tone for an engrossing game. Throughout the rest of the game both teams looked intent on throwing the kitchen sink—and then some!—at each other.

Cunupia took the lead in spectacular fashion in the 13th minute as Jaydon Clarke curled a deep, right-footed free kick past a hapless keeper; it would not be the last time the stylish youngster did that–the scoring, not the curling–on the day.

Just two minutes later, there was a very rare sequence in Cunupia’s penalty area as a Cunupia defender produced a dramatic overhead kick to keep Trevlon Weekes’ acrobatic bicycle kick attempt on goal from crossing the line.

One felt the youngsters had paid special attention to Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic in the Champions League final a week ago.

In the 19th minute, Jabloteh finally found an equalizer when Jaheim Faustin latched on to a diagonal ball from the left side and produced a peach of a lob to beat the Cunupia custodian. Effortlessly sauntering past his opponents on the right flank two minutes later, Faustin was mere inches from notching a double but his effort whizzed just over the bar.

Ezekiel Stapleton did, however, give Jabloteh the lead in the 32nd minute, slotting home from close range before Cunupia equalised with yet another free kick.

The supporters pleaded loudly for Clarke to take it but it was the lanky figure of Thierry Charles who stepped up to the ball.  Over the excited murmuring of the crowd, coach David Quamina’s voice was heard loudly warning his player against carelessly putting the ball over the bar. And Charles heeded the warning, nonchalantly curling a left-footer into the back of the net.

In the 44th minute, Cunupia could start thinking about grabbing all three points and a national quarterfinal spot when Clarke capitalised on a defensive error to finish with composure from close range.

Odele Lawrence helped himself to a beaver-trick to emerge as the star when Cunupia later took on cellar-placed Adrenaline FA. In a second-half onslaught which saw them rack up seven goals, they thoroughly thumped their struggling opponents 8-0 to leapfrog Trincity Nationals at the top of the standings and make the dream of a national quarterfinal spot a reality.

Summing up the performances as “a hard day for us,” Coach Quamina noted that some of his players are punching above their weight and so he was particularly pleased with the outcome.

“We knew Jabloteh would have been a hard game,” he told Wired868, “but we actually weren’t expecting to reach so far because we are still in a developmental phase. We have about five Under-11s playing in the Under-13 Division [with] some 12-year-olds. So they exceeded my expectations.”

He made special mention of tricky attacker Tariq Abdullah, who has turned out for Cunupia in both the Under-11 and Under-13 divisions in this year’s RBNYL, commending him for breaking down Jabloteh’s defence with his penetrating runs. Abdullah is full of confidence on the ball and, as the Adrenaline and Jabloteh defenders found out on the day, he is a master of the sharp turn.

Ja-Shawn Thomas got the ball rolling early for FC Santa Rosa, who will join Cunupia and Trincity Nationals as the third qualifier from the Under-13 Division.

Thomas scored a first-half double for the “Little Cannons” as they whipped Maracas United 4-0 on the day. When on the stroke of full time, the Santa Rosa goalkeeper produced an impressive penalty stop to ensure that Maracas left empty-handed, his whole team stormed on to the field and hoisted him in the air as though they had just won the tournament. Or the World Cup.

FC Santa Rosa (ten points) stood atop the Under-15 Division along with Crown Trace FC (10) and Police FC (9) before the first whistle sounded yesterday. Theoretically, Cunupia Extreme (6) and Defence Force (3) were still in with a shout but the top three were having absolutely none of it.

Crown Trace and Santa Rosa convincingly defeated Defence Force 7-0 and 5-0 respectively. However, it was Police’s 5-0 whipping of Cunupia Extreme which caught the eye.

With Police already leading 3-0, one of their attackers—Wired868 is doing what it can to get his name—weaved his way through the Cunupia defence to score with a simple finish and take the Police tally to four.

Good as it was, the finish wasn’t the best part as the youngster ran off the field, took a seat among a small group of spectators and lustily applauded his own goal.

Almost everyone saw the funny side of things. However, the referee, unamused, rewarded the cheeky youngster for his theatrics with a yellow card.

Walk with your cameras, folks, just in case this Police Under-15 team scores in the quarterfinal on 17 June.

2017 Republic Bank National Youth League scores

(Saturday 10 June)

East Zone at Constantine Park, Macoya

(Under-11)

Defence Force 0, San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Cameron Nelson 20);

Malabar Young Stars 5, Adrenaline FA 2

San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Lindell Sween 15, Anthony Alexander 45), Cunupia Extreme 0;

(Under-13)

Adrenaline FA 0, Police FC 8 (Tyreke Harding 12, Jessiah Hercules 23, Nathaniel Carrim 32, Jaron Pascall 36, 48, Imani Lewis 40, 42, Jalen King 54);

Cunupia Extreme 3 (Jaydon Clarke 13, 44, Thierry Charles 39), Jabloteh 2 (Jaheim Faustin 19, Eziekel Stapleton 32);

FC Santa Rosa 4 (Ja-Shawn Thomas 4, 16, Kosi Charles 19, Daniel Votor 48), Maracas United 0;

Adrenaline FA 0, Cunupia Extreme 8 (Jaydon Clarke 2, Odele Lawrence 34, 41, 54, 56, Isiah Raymond 39, Isiah Raymond, Christopher Smith 51;

(Under-15)

Defence Force 0, Crown Trace 7 (Isaiah Paul 20, Khadeem Thomas 25, 34, Isaiah Samuel 62, 71, Jeremiah Thomas 70, Malik Robinson 79;

Cunupia Extreme 0, Police FC 5;

Defence Force 0, FC Santa Rosa 5 (Mikel St Martin 12, Malachi Daniel 21, 31, Tyrese De Noon 34, Ja-Shawn Thomas 47)