Richard Bryan, Gleaner Writer
In the 2011 season, Spalding were locked out of a congested mid-island zone by Manchester High and the surprise package Knox College in the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/Gatorade/Digicel daCosta Cup schoolboy football competition.
This year they are in a much leaner group and matched against opponents they have dominated since 2007.
However, making the inter-zone cut is the least of coach Courtney Jackson's ambitions. In fact, he makes no secret that a serious run at the title is on his agenda.
"To tell you the truth, I have a very good side and I would be disappointed if I don't go very far," he told The Gleaner in an interview conducted during the half-time interval of the recent Red Stripe Premier League football match between Humble Lion and Sporting Central Academy at Effortville Community Centre.
Jackson claims he has done his homework and is satisfied with the level of preparation which he says compares favourably with the 2008 season. It was a historic year for the school and the parish of Manchester when Spalding went to the final, but lost out to St James High.
There is one surviving member of that team, Andre Morrison, who may well be the most experienced player in the competition this season. Morrison, who is the captain, is also the team's central defender.
There are two important highlights of the preseason, which Jackson believes has provided an excellent gauge. The first came in late July, when Jackson organised a four-team weekend tournament. It was hosted at Brooks Park over four days and played in the honour of Alphanso Davis, the former principal of Spalding and the man Jackson credits for Spalding's meteoric rise among Manchester-based schools. In that tournament, Spalding defeated Vere and Calabar, but lost to St Jago.
The second and most encouraging aspect came recently when the team embarked on a nine-day training camp at Irwin High.
Irwin have since withdrawn from the competition, but the camp facilitated no fewer than 12 practice games against a myriad of schools within the western belt. Except for the earlier St Jago defeat, Spalding are yet to lose a preseason game.
It's a confidence-boosting résumé and momentum Jackson intends to build on when his side kicks off a new campaign next Tuesday at their adopted home ground of Kirkvine.