MAY PEN, Clarendon — Lennon High are being tipped as the Clarendon school mostly likely to challenge for this year's rural area daCosta Cup title.
Since their breakthrough season in 2008, Lennon have been perennial big hitters, but are yet to take their place amongst the list of winners.
However, with what is reported to be a "quality and experienced" squad, many football watchers here reckon Merron Gordon's side are now poised to become the fifth Clarendon school to raise the daCosta Cup.
"I think they are a well-organised and drilled team and I really expect them to do very well," said Vassell Reynolds, former Garvey Maceo, Vere Technical and Edwin Allen coach.
"They have a lot going for them," he added. "In addition to having the most improved programme in Clarendon, they should have a very experienced team, plus a coach who knows what he's doing," Reynolds said.
The Mocho-based school, which won all 10 pre-season games, lost three members of last season's squad, but gained three "quality players" (Corey Hylton, Odane Davidson and Rayon Williams) from Denbigh High, all of whom Gordon believes "will make the team even better."
No parish has won more daCosta Cup titles (18) or produced more winning schools than Clarendon (Vere Technical, Clarendon College, Glenmuir, and Garvey Maceo). Lennon -- drawn alongside Clarendon, Claude McKay, Edwin Allen, and Thompson Town in Zone H -- came close to adding their name to that list in 2010, but were denied by Rusea's in the final, courtesy of Anthony Walker's 'hand ball' goal in extra time.
Reynolds thinks it would be a great achievement if Gordon and his charges could rebound from that setback and win the trophy. However, he believes winning their first title won't be a walk in the park.
"They were unlucky a couple seasons ago, so it would be great if they could actually do it this year. But winning your first title is never easy," Reynolds noted. "They will have to be careful not to become overconfident."
According to the pundits, Clarendon College seem to be the other school in the parish with a squad that is good enough to challenge for silverware.
The Chapelton school ruled schoolboy football in the latter parts of the 1970s and 90s, under the guidance of legendary coaches Winston Chung-Fah and Patrick 'Jackie' Walters, respectively, but have not posed much of a threat since their triple crown success 14 years ago.
However, with a new coach, Anthony Patrick (formerly of Bridgeport) and talented players, many expect them to come good this year.
"The last time I saw them they looked a bit disorganised, but [they] have some quality players," said Reynolds. "They have a new coach, who should by now have learnt the difference between Manning Cup and daCosta Cup, so if (he) gets them organised I think they could be a force to be reckoned with," he added.
Glenmuir, the last Clarendon school to win a senior schoolboy trophy (2009 Ben Francis Cup), are not expected to repeat last season's semi-final run. But with veteran coach Patrick 'Jackie' Walters still calling the shots at the May Pen-based school, not many are willing to bet against them springing a surprise or two.
"I wouldn't write off that team," Reynolds said, "They have been there before and even won the title when they weren't even expecting it. And having a coach like Jackie Walters is always a plus."
Another of the parish's sleeping giants, Vere Technical High, are also expected to make a good impression this year.
Only Cornwall College (11) and Rusea's (10) have won more titles than Vere (nine); and while they are not expected to be anywhere near their title-winning exploits of the late 1960s to early 70s, it is widely believed that the appointment of former Reggae Boy Christopher Dawes as their new head coach will lay the foundation for future success.
"Dawes is a man who is good at harnessing young talent, so I'm expecting them to show some promise and, based on the group that they are in, it wouldn't be a surprise if they make it to the second round," Reynolds said.