Big daCosta Cup battle looms - STETHS and Cornwall square-off in final showdown
At the start of the 2016 ISSA-FLOW daCosta Cup football season, there were 77 schools in the hunt for the crown.
Now, nearly four months later, only two remain. The champions will be crowned this evening when reigning champions St Elizabeth Technical battle the competition's winningest team, Cornwall College, in the final starting at 6 p.m. at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall, St James.
It's a final of huge importance for both teams and one that promises to reignite and awaken the almost-forgotten rivalry between two of the competition's most successful schools over the years.
STETHS enter the match much the accomplished defending champions and with a point to prove, while Cornwall hope to recapture their former glory.
The Dr Dean Weatherly-coached Cornwall College are making their first daCosta Cup final appearance since 2001 with a team that on their day can outmanoeuvre, outplay and outperform any opponent.
They boast the competition's most feared attacking duo in Jourdaine Fletcher and super talented Peter-Lee Vassell.
They also have in their arsenal a top-rate goalkeeper in Jamario Hines and with the likes of big defenders Howard Dent and Pagiel Brown, along with Dwayne Harding, STETHS could possibly be in for a long evening.
Fletcher, in particular, will be a real threat on the STETHS goal. He has scored 27 times so far this season and need no invitation to fire at goal.
Nagging foot injury
Vassell, meanwhile, has not been at his supreme best lately because of a nagging foot injury that saw him taking part for the last 15 minutes in their 2-1 semi-final win over Clarendon College last week.
But with a trophy at stake, he is expected to take his place in the starting eleven with Cornwall going after a record-extending 12th daCosta Cup crown.
"We have come a long way," Weatherly said. "I noted at the start of the season that if we come this far and lose the final we would have to blame ourselves. I think the players are ready and once we play to instructions, we will win," he added.
"Going after a 12th daCosta Cup title is motivation for this team. The players have been together now for three years playing football. It all comes down to this. We are confident and hopeful of victory," Weatherly said.
The defending champions STETHS are back where they belong, according to head coach Omar "Rambo" Wedderburn.
He wants a good final, but more than anything else, he wants a STETHS victory at the end of it all to mark a sixth hold on the title.
STETHS' pedigree is bettered only by few including the 11 titles Cornwall have won.
Rusea's High (10), Vere Tech (9), Munro College (7) and Clarendon College (7) titles, all rank just above them in that respect.
"This is the competition we love. The daCosta Cup is the biggest title in schoolboy football, and we target this one each season," stated Wedderburn
"We have a little rivalry with Cornwall College, but that is the sideshow. All we plan on doing is to stay focused and keep a positive mindset. It's a final, and the two teams are going out there to win. I believe we have the better team, therefore, we should win," he told The Gleaner.
STETHS defeated Lennon High 2-1 in their semi-final, putting in yet another hearty performance. Wedderburn wants more of the same against Cornwall College, who will start the game as favourites.
"A favourite's tag never guarantees a win. We are here because we strive to be here. Our players will give their all because they know how important this is to the school. We aim to cap the season by keeping our title," Wedderburn said.
Alex Thompson, Glendo Gopaul, Demar James and captain Chris-Andrew Dixon, who is described as the heart of the STETHS team could make the difference for the Santa Cruz-based team.