First-time Tobago Zone champions Mason Hall Government Secondary and their Central counterparts Carapichaima Senior Comprehensive kick off the BG T&T Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Big Five tournament today at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Tobago from 3.45 p.m.
The teams are yet to meet on the field, with Mason Hall being the "babes" of the competition--in only their fourth year of existence and their second in the Championship Division. They aim, however, to take full advantage of the "underdogs" tag.
Carapichaima themselves do not know what it means to be national league champions. This year, according to manager Steve Gopeesingh, they intend to change that fact.
Last year, the Central Zone champs stumbled in a 5-1 whipping at the hands of Mucurapo Secondary Comprehensive in their quarter-final fixture. Gopeesingh explained that goalkeeping was his team's "Achilles Heel" in that loss. He is more assured this year.
"We're looking for a victory tomorrow (today) to be honest," Gopeesingh told the Express, yesterday. "To be honest, we're all confident of reaching the final."
Their less experienced opponents, who are enjoying home advantage today, will be hoping to spoil Carapichaima's perfect record.
On Saturday night, coach Sherwin Jordan hosted the entire Mason Hall squad at his Patience Hill home ahead of their final training session early yesterday morning. Jordan is hoping that same togetherness his team is exhibiting will be the key to victory.
"If the team stick to the instructions that they're given, I think that we have enough strength to win against Carapichaima," Jordan said, during a training session on Friday.
Strikers Jeffon Cornwall (14 goals) and Trent Lougheed (9) have been prolific for Carapichaima, and are two of the SSFL's top scorers thus far. Mason Hall have their own stars they rely on, such as striker Benton Charles (7) and influential attacking midfielder Daneil Cyrus, the only national Under-17 player from Tobago.
Cyrus is the team's talisman and is well respected by all the players, who feel they can be more than a handful for the visitors from Central Trinidad. That will not daunt Carapichaima, who have their eyes on the prize.
"We're focusing on our game, we're not focusing on the opponents," Gopeesingh declared.
With no history between the teams, it will be tough to predict a winner. But when the final whistle sounds, only one will be moving on to the Big Five semis.
North Zone competition will conclude today with Mucurapo and Diego Martin Secondary battling to stave off relegation, at the Fatima College Ground, in a bottom-of-the-table clash. Trinity, who have completed their schedule of matches, are also in the relegation zone.