It had been a decade since the boys from Bourg Mulatresse tasted National Intercol success. And, today, the Jerry Moe-coached team put in a stubborn defensive display to eke out a 1-0 victory against their more fancied opponents before a 3,000-strong crowd.
The eastern schools really did prove to be rowdy visitors in Marabella today, as St Augustine Secondary defeated Fyzabad Secondary by a 3-2 margin to lift the Girls’ Intercol crown in the afternoon’s first game.
The girls’ finale turned out to be way more open than the boys’ final which followed it and St Augustine’s Adanya Phillip cashed in as she bagged a brace to help her team to the title.
St Augustine, who were coached by Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Senior Team player Ayana Russell, took a first half lead through a predatory Phillip strike before being pegged back on the stroke of halftime by a well-taken Denecia Prince item.
The powerful Prince was a handful all game long–although her finishing let her down a few times–and she shook off a challenge from defender Shalisha King before slotting away the equalizer.
St Augustine’s Phillip showed she could be a nuisance too, and the attacker regained her team’s advantage with a powerful shot from inside the area in the 53rd minute.
Prince and her bustling teammate Abishai Guy looked to be two of the more dangerous players on the park but, collectively, Russell’s charges were a more cohesive unit. And the “Green Machine” went up 3-1 in the 69th minute after a blatant handball by Fyzabad skipper Donessia Henry.
Ke’die Johnson then did the honors as she tucked away the penalty with ease.
The next big moment in the match came three minutes later as referee CJ O’Brien failed to play the advantage in Fyzabad’s favor when Prince recollected herself after being impeded by Aaliya Lynch outside the area. The speedy Prince was through on goal and she let O’Brien know all about it too.
There was some consolation for Prince and ‘Fyzo’ in the end though, as the attacker converted a penalty in stoppage time.
By then, it was too little too late, and St Augustine celebrated their third Intercol title in four years.
In the build-up to the Intercol showdown between Presentation and San Juan, ‘Pres’ coach Shawn Cooper stressed that his team needed to be more clinical in front of goal while Moe said his players had to adhere to the roles and functions given to them.
After a tense 90 minutes in Marabella, it is fair to say that Moe’s charges were the ones who executed their game plan to a tee. After a late first half strike by Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 utility player Brandon “Sprite” Semper, the San Juan players fought and defended in tandem as they subdued the threats of the usually relentless ‘Pres Lions’.
Stand-in captain Kyle Thomas took up the mantle admirably today, as the defender courageously solidified the San Juan backline, despite receiving some strapping for a head injury in the first half.
Presentation dominated possession for most of the game and enjoyed some joy down the right side through the tricky Jordan Riley. However, they wasted a few presentable opportunities and failed to get sufficient numbers in the box on a regular basis.
An 11th minute miss from point blank range by Presentation skipper Kareem Riley really set the tone for what was to follow for the San Fernando schoolboys. And coach Cooper knew that his team lived to regret it.
“In the first 20 minutes, I think we should have sealed off the game with some glaring opportunities,” Cooper told Wired868. “We just missed our opportunities and as the old people say, ‘opportunities lost can never be regained’…”
And the southern school paid the heaviest of prices when Semper applied a neat finishing touch to a Tigana O’Brien cross in first half stoppage time. The feisty Semper had shown Presentation warning signs earlier on, as he forced goalkeeper Jabari Gray into an awkward save with a dipping free kick near the half hour mark.
But on another day, “Sprite” could have been given his marching orders for an earlier infraction. In only the seventh minute, Semper took exception to some aggressive marking by defender Matthew Joseph and sized up for the burly defender near the technical area.
Referee Keilon Bacchus put an end to the possible bust up as he showed both players yellow cards.
Semper lived to see another day and his timely strike was just what the doctor ordered for San Juan.
Still, San Juan’s 3-1-4-2 system was offering way too much space for Riley (J) down the right flank, and Moe admitted as much.
“[The amount of space Jordan Riley was getting] was a concern because we prepared specifically for that yesterday based on how we saw them play,” Moe said. “But in the second half we were able to correct it. We switched from three in the back to a back four and that kinda nullified it.”
In the second half, O’Brien and defender Kareem John kept a close eye on Riley (J) while Thomas and midfielder Josiah Beard stuck to the dangerous Nion Lammy like glue.
San Juan looked increasingly comfortable in the second half as they prevented both Lammy and Riley (J) from getting behind their wing backs. Pres tried to counter that by shifting Lammy to a more central role, but San Juan midfielders Jerome Cyrus and Nathaniel Perouse were also working diligently for the cause.
“Today we defended tremendously. We defended a lot better than we attacked today and that kept us in the game and it gave us a chance too,” Moe said. “Not just today, Kyle Thomas was one of the revelations of the season. He was consistent for us all season and he deserves whatever [call up] he gets [from the National Under-20 Team].”
With the subdued Presentation supporters almost begging their players to get back on level terms, the Rileys tried to step up to the occasion.
In the 86th minute, Kareem sent a booming shot over the bar after a workmanlike build up while Jordan shot straight at goalkeeper Shawndell Byer with a close range shot four minutes later.
The seconds were agonizingly ticking away and the ‘Fat Lady’ was clearing her throat; not that the Pres faithful wanted to hear that.
Coach Cooper took it on the chin though.
“They defended the one goal and they defended stoutly,” said Cooper said. “I have to give them credit. They came here to do a job and they did it.”
Meanwhile, Moe pointed to the importance of his team maintaining their defensive focus.
“Football is about trying to score one more goal than the opponent and we were able to do that, even though we didn’t have most of the possession,” Moe said. “We didn’t panic. Okay we can’t score but we are not gonna let you score? And that was the mindset I was trying to get into these boys for a long time.”
Moe and his youngsters were able to get San Juan’s first Intercol win for ten years. And the Bourg Mulatresse school will hope they don’t have to wait another ten years for Intercol success.
“I think this victory was more than just for me and the team, we had some supporters [with us through thick and thin],” said Moe. “Boogey, the Market crew, Jazzy, these guys were behind us from the beginning. Even when we were losing six games in a row these guys never wavered […] they gave the players that impetus and belief in themselves.
“I think this is good for the school but also the community as well. We realized it’s bigger than San Juan North. It’s for the whole community, from Santa Cruz straight down to San Juan.”
Spare a thought for the losing finalists, Presentation. Their last National Intercol win came in 1975 and Cooper said his team had unfinished business after their semifinal victory over Signal Hill on Saturday.
But for now, that business will have to be the Secondary Schools Football League’s (SSFL) Big Four competition where a meeting with current Premier Division champions Shiva Boys Hindu College awaits on Friday. San Juan, the new Intercol champions, will open their Big Four campaign against Naparima College.
Presentation College (San Fernando) (4-4-1-1): 28.Jabari Gray (GK); 16.Mylz Barrington, 2.Shirwin Noel, Matthew Joseph, 3.Juaval Roberts; 11.Jordan Riley, 12.Darnell Hospedales, 8.Terrell Williams (13.Jarod Gordon 68), 7.Nion Lammy; 10.Kareem Riley (captain); 5.James Alex Lee Yaw (9.Omri Baird 58).
Unused Substitutes: 1.Ishmael Salaam (GK), 14.Jerrin Jackie, 15.Aleem Barclay, 19.Jarelle Steadman, 23.Justin Cornwall.
Coach: Shawn Cooper
San Juan North Secondary (3-4-1-2): 1.Shawndell Byer (GK); 21.Kyle Thomas (captain), 3.Kurdell Sween, 17.Kareem John; 2.Tyrell Cameron (14.Darian Warner 58), 7.Josiah Beard (16.Obadele Dickson 76), 22.Nathaniel Perouse, 18.Tigana O’Brien; 20.Jerome Cyrus; 6.Brandon Semper, 9.Renaldo Boyce (11.Miguel Garraway 90+2).
Unused Substitutes: 12.Jeremiah Scott, 19.Adrian Duncan, 23.Ibn-Al-Hakim Skinner.
Coach: Jerry Moe
Referee: Keilon Bacchus
Wired868 Man of the Match: Kyle Thomas (San Juan North)
(Tuesday 6 December)
Girls’ National Intercol Final
Fyzabad Secondary 2 (Denecia Prince ), St Augustine Secondary 3 (Adanya Phillip , Kedie Johnson) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
Boys’ National Intercol Final
Presentation College (San Fernando) 0, San Juan North 1 (Brandon Semper 45+2) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.
Big Four fixtures
(Friday 9 December)
Presentation College (San F’do) vs Shiva Boys HC, Semifinal A, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva;
San Juan North vs Naparima College, Semifinal B, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva;
(Monday 12 December)
Winner of A vs Winner of B, Big Four Finals, TBD.