MONTEGO BAY, St James — Grange Hill High of Westmoreland continued to write their own history after qualifying for their first Under-19 football final by earning a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Manchester High in the semi-final of the ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel Ben Francis KO at Jarrett Park yesterday.
After giving up a goal inside the first minute, Grange Hill — who had scored just once in regulation time in their previous two games — netted twice in 14 minutes in the second half to shock last year's beaten finalists and send their supporters into ecstasy.
Delroy Miller's goal in the 50th second had given Manchester the lead, while Norman Malcolm in the 67th and Akeam Shackleford in the 81st — both with looping shots over the head of goalkeeper Ackeem Nelson — set up a November 10 finale with two-time defending champions St Elizabeth Technical (STETHS), who defeated Paul Bogle High, 2-0, in Santa Cruz.
Jarrett Park continues to be a graveyard for Manchester as they have now lost two finals — once in the daCosta Cup and the other in the KO — before yesterday's setback.
Dane Warren, Grange Hill's coach, told the Jamaica Observer after the game that he was "elated with the win, but disappointed with the way the boys played in the first half".
He said the game plan was to contain the Manchester team, but they did not execute well.
"I'm very happy with the heart and courage they showed to come back in the second half; I am grateful for that," said Warren.
Manchester's assistant coach Jermaine Newell said "lack of concentration" and not taking the many chances created were the reasons they had to now turn their attention to the daCosta Cup.
"The guys played well; they created many scoring chances, but just did not score," he told the Sunday Observer. "We just have to prepare for the Inter-zone round now and look at where we made the mistakes."
Aliem Campbell, possibly the biggest player on the pitch, was responsible for most of Manchester's missed chances, but it was his presence of mind early in the game that gave then the lead.
After his initial shot was blocked, he saw Miller to his left and passed the ball to the stocky striker, who created space and fired left-footed past the diving Omario Hendricks in the Grange Hill goal.
Grange Hill had two good chances to pull themselves level, but Trimaine Thompson headed wide in the 12th after a cross from the left side beat Nelson at his near post, and in the 34th, Paul Warren got behind the Manchester defence, but with the goal at his mercy, headed wide.
At the other end, Kevaughn Isaacs' shot from an acute angle on the right was blocked by Hendricks at the near post, while Isamnia Cohen powered a shot into the side netting from close range with a minute to go in the first half.
Campbell should have put the game out of Grange Hill's reach in the 65th when he missed the ball with no defender anywhere close and the goalkeeper woefully out of position, and Manchester were made to pay dearly.
Grange Hill cleared the ball out of their area and Malcolm on the right side, perhaps seeing Nelson off his line, looped a ball high into the area that fell behind the custodian and under the crossbar to pull the Westmoreland school level.
After two useful chances to Manchester from Dovane Perry, whose lobbed shot came back off the upright in the 78th, and substitute Okeem Blanford's shot that missed by inches two minutes later, Grange Hill completed their comeback.
Shackleford, who had earlier missed a chance, made amends when his looping shot flew over the head of Nelson in the 81st and into the goal. Grange Hill then dropped nine players behind the ball in an effort to secure the win, but it took another outstanding save from the 18-year-old Hendricks, who blocked a direct shot in the 90th, as Manchester threw everything into attack.