Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:Defending champions Rusea's will square off against two-time winners Herbert Morrison in the opening game of the 2012 ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel daCosta Cup competition this afternoon at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex at 4:15.
The game, a traditional top-flight clash between the two traditional big guns - Rusea's, who have won the title 10 times, and Herbert Morrison, on two occasions - will precede the Manning Cup opener between champions St George's College and Hydel High School set for a 2 o'clock kick-off.
Rusea's have won the last two titles. Herbert Morrison were champions twice, in 1986 and again in 1988. They opted not to enter the competition in 2011, but have re-emerged for the 2012 edition with a new coach at the helm.
MANY EYES ON THE PRIZE
Herbert Morrison are only one of many schools who are seeking to wrest the crown from Rusea's, but in reality, only a handful will likely be in the running for the daCosta Cup title game set for December 1. Rusea's are only one of two schools to have won 10 or more titles, the other being Cornwall College, who have won it a record 11 times.
The Lucea, Hanover-based school is always aiming to break that record.
"There is always that in our minds, but it will not be easy as we have lost quite a few of our quality players," reasoned the long-standing Rusea's coach, Emerson 'Diggy' Henry.
Henry said he is cautiously optimistic, however, noting that injuries picked up in preseason matches are a further hit to the chances of the defending champions.
"We have some injury worries looking ahead to the opening match against Herbert Morrison on Saturday, but we will give it our all and see what we can come away with on the day."
COULD BE IN FOR TOUGH MATCH
He admitted to not knowing much about their opponents, but cautioned that if they can reproduce the kind of form they exhibited in 2010, then Rusea's will be in for a tough afternoon on Saturday.
"I really don't know much about them this year. I know they missed last year, but if they play anywhere near as good as they did in 2010, then we face a real challenge," Henry said.
Coach Dane Randall, like Henry, is cautious about his school's prospects, adding that the real difficulty lies in the number of inexperienced players he has at his disposal.
"We missed last year and now we are using the bulk of our Under-16 players to build a team, so nobody expects us to win the title, though that would be nice. We really will play to win on Saturday, as we respect the defending champions but not too much," Randall said.
"Making the inter-zone round will be ideal this year; anything else is a bonus," he said.
Some 82 schools are set to participate in the competition after the withdrawal of two St James schools, Irwin High and Anchovy High, as well as Knockalva Technical High from Hanover.