Adrian Frater, News Editor
WESTERN BUREAU: The first title of the 2011-12 ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel schoolboy football season will be up for grabs today, when defending champions St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) and mid-island challengers Manchester High square off in the final of the Ben Francis Cup KO at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay, starting at 3 p.m.
The teams qualified for the final - which is the premier knockout competition for rural high schools - following Wednesday's semi-final games, which saw STETHS defeating daCosta Cup champions Rusea's 5-4 on penalties, and Manchester High scoring a 1-0 extra-time win against Paul Bogle High.
Although they have had just a mere two days' recovery time after their hectic semi-final games, the coaching staff of both STETHS and Manchester High have indicated that they will be absolutely ready for today's game, which, from all indications, will be a cracker as both teams are sporting unbeaten records this season.
"Our aim is to win all three schoolboy titles and we intend to start with the Ben Francis Cup today," said the ultra-confident STETHS coach, Andrew Edwards. "We have recovery mechanisms in place, so come Saturday, we will once again be physically, tactically, and psychological ready to make a successful defence of our Ben Francis Cup title."
good to be in a final
Manchester High's coach, Sheldon Davis, who replaced Barry Watson at the start of the season, says their focus is on winning the title.
"We have worked very hard this season and it is good to be in a final, but that is not enough for us. We want to go all the way and win this title," said Davis. "We are confident and ready."
It should be interesting to note that this is the second time the two mid-island teams will be meeting in a major final as in 2009, they met in the daCosta Cup final when STETHS won 1-0, courtesy of a Deshawn Brown strike.
Looking at the form of the two teams, it is not difficult to understand why they are in the final as in addition to being unbeaten in the daCosta Cup and winning the two Ben Francis Cup games they have played, both teams are blessed with an abundance of gifted, young footballers.
Prior to the semi-final win against Rusea's, STETHS were rampant in their first-round game, blanking Cedric Titus 3-0. For their part, Manchester High netted a big fish, knocking out many-time champions Glenmuir High 1-0.
In their bid to stop STETHS in their tracks and win their first major schoolboy title, Manchester High will be banking heavily on the prolific trio of Vincent Mitchell (12 goals), Ashani Lawson (11), and Samuda Johnson (six).
Having ripped the veil of invincibility off the 'Russians' in their semi-final clash, STETHS' top players Kevon Farquharson, who has scored 22 goals, Jason McLean, Akeem Jones, and Levaughn Baker should be bubbling with confidence.