Camperdown end Excelsior's Ali Cole Cup stranglehold
Camperdown High players celebrate with the Ali Cole Cup. (Photo: Dwayne Richards)

CAMPERDOWN High School ended the stranglehold that hosts Excelsior High have had on the Ali Cole Cup when they defeated the two-time champions 3-2 on penalties after playing out a 1-1 draw in regulation time in the final on Saturday.

Excelsior High won the first two editions of the competition, which was then interrupted for two years due to COVID-19.

The Ali Cole Cup returned with 12 teams this year, up from 10 teams the last time it was held in 2019, with six teams per zone playing in a round robin format. The first round was played between Friday and Saturday afternoon, with four teams advancing to the semi-finals.

In semi-final one, Camperdown and Tivoli Gardens High played out a 1-1 draw before Camperdown advanced 3-2 on penalties.

In semi-final two, Rusea's High thought they were on their way to the final before the reigning champions found a late equaliser to level at 1-1 with just a few seconds left on the clock. Excelsior then prevailed 3-2 from the penalty spot to make it to the final for the third time.

Camperdown played some free-flowing football for the two days of competition and showed that again in the final — which was heavily influenced by winger and MVP Junior Grizelle and the diminutive Jardel Williams in midfield, along with their top striker Devante McCrea.

They went 1-0 up through Ricardo Spencer and seemed headed to their first championship win of the Ali Cole Cup before a mix-up in defence let in Dale Fuller to equalise late in the game.

But Camperdown were not to be denied and, just as he had done in the semi-finals, McCrea held his nerve to score the winning penalty for Camperdown and take the trophy from 137 Mountain View Avenue to 6B Camperdown Road.

Donovan Lofters said his team would benefit from the confidence that comes with winning the preseason tournament.

"We have a cup, which is good for their confidence. So, it's good for them to understand that as long as they do what the coach says and do what we believe in, we can be victorious."

Xavier Gilbert said that his team would learn from the experience.

"There are definitely some things that we have to build on to be competitive this season but I liked the way the boys gave a good account of themselves over the two days."

Excelsior High Principal Deanroy Bromfield, who thanked the Yellow and Green Organization that was responsible for the staging of the Ali Cole Cup, spoke to the importance of the competition.

"It is obviously a very important preseason developer, as you can see by the number of teams that have come, and the quality of teams that have come, and the distance from which these teams have come," he emphasised.

Christopher Bailey, president of the Yellow and Green Organisation, said that the competition was for the development of student athletes.

"This tournament is hard work…to hear the comments of the coaches and even our principal…we are pleased. This can only get better and better."

The competition is set to return next year in an even more expanded format.

— Dwayne Richards

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