MONTEGO BAY, St James — The teams that will contest the second schoolboy football final will be decided this afternoon when the rescheduled ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel Ben Francis semi-finals get underway.
The first final, the Walker Cup, was decided yesterday in Kingston, another rescheduled affair after the passage of Hurricane Sandy forced the organisers to push the games back by several days.
Two-time defending Ben Francis KO champions St Elizabeth Technical (STETHS), who are on course to be the first team to win three straight titles, will face Paul Bogle High in a mouthwatering encounter at the St Elizabeth Technical Sports Complex in Santa Cruz while Manchester High and Grange Hill will meet at Jarrett Park.
Both games today will start at 3:00 pm and will be play-to-finish encounters, as winners must be decided even if it takes extra time and/or penalties, should the scores be tied after full time.
The games were originally down for Wednesday and all three coaches who spoke to the Jamaica Observer said the three extra rest days helped them.
George Forbes, competition coordinator at ISSA, said yesterday they were tentatively looking at November 10 as the date for the final after the end of the Inter-zone games.
On paper, the match-up in Santa Cruz promises to be the more exciting as it will be between two of the most prolific scoring teams in the daCosta Cup, while at Jarrett Park that game could be decided by a single goal between two of the best defensive teams.
After easily qualifying from their respective daCosta Cup zones, Paul Bogle and STETHS had little difficulty in getting to the semi-finals, while Manchester High and Grange Hill had to survive penalty-outs and in Manchester High’s case, back-to-back shoot-outs.
STETHS will be the most rested of the three having played just once after a bye in the first round and easily dispatched of first-time qualifiers Kemps Hill 3-0 last week with Kehsario Hall scoring twice to add to the 15 goals he scored in the daCosta Cup so far.
It is the STETHS defence that will have to answer some questions this afternoon, says coach Omar Wedderburn.
“This is a big game and we like to play in these kinds of competitions and it will be a good test for our defence,” he told the Observer.
Paul Bogle’s marksman Alvas Powell will be the main target of the STETHS defence after scoring 21 goals in the daCosta Cup and one in their comefrom-behind win over St Mary Technical last week.
The eastern Jamaica-based school will no doubt be carrying the hopes of the entire region that was devastated by the hurricane earlier this week as they seek to advance to their first Ben Francis final.
Manchester High’s coach Sheldon Davis, more than any other, was glad for the forced break after playing 220 minutes, plus penalties in their wins over Spalding High and Clarendon College, respectively.
Going up against what he described as a “quality Grange Hill team that is well organised”, Davis noted that his team needed the rest to take on the team that denied them a place in the quarterfinals of the daCosta Cup last year.
Manchester will also be seeking their first win at Jarrett Park since their last three outings, including the Ben Francis KO final last year. But Davis said that with quite a few players in the team from last year and having won away from home this season, “we are getting over playing (bad games) away from home”.