SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Central High will hope to become the 14th school to lift the ISSA daCosta Cup today when they face one of the most successful schools in Jamaica's schoolboy football history, Clarendon College, in the final set for the St Elizabeth Technical Sports Complex in Santa Cruz, set to kick off at 4:30 pm.
Clarendon College, who are undefeated in the daCosta Cup, will be playing their 20th game in the competition today and would have broken the 18-game unbeaten run set by Cornwall College in the 2016 season.
Central High are in uncharted waters, moving past the quarter-finals for the first time and having ascended to that stage for only the second time, but Coach Jermaine Douglas characterised his team by saying, "This team is not easily scared, they have a controlled arrogance that even scares me at times."
The Clarendon College team will play the game under a pall of gloom after their long-time Assistant Manager Neville Peart was killed in a motor vehicle accident early Friday morning.
Despite this, Clarendon College Coach Lenworth Hyde expects his team "to remain focused" and that they will have some psychological advantage after beating Central High 1-0 in their quarter-final meeting last month.
Both teams were taken to penalty kicks in the semi-finals played earlier this week; Clarendon College just got by last season's beaten finalists Manning's School while Central beat Manchester High, both by 5-4 margins, after both games ended in 1-1 scorelines.
Clarendon College might be vulnerable as they have not been at their superb best in their last two outings, losing 4-2 to Kingston College in the semi-finals of the ISSA Champions Cup and going down 4-0 early in the second half.
The nine-time winners who last won the title in 2019 were also very fortunate against Manning's School who led in regulation time and also in the penalty shoot-out but rallied to get to the decider today.
Hyde told the Jamaica Observer on Friday he expects today's game to be different from the one in the quarter-finals. "This will be a different game; they have improved and they are in the final and we expect them to be better than the last time."
As a consequence, he said his team must lift their game from their last two outings. "We have to be better but it is what you do on the day that will be important."
Meanwhile, Douglas says they have used the time since the last game to prepare both physically and tactically but said, "we have to play to our strengths and control what we can control".
He said: "As long as we execute and get some luck go our way, we will be good." Douglas added that the composure he saw in his team late against Manchester High tells him they will be ready for the biggest game of their young lives.
Central's journey to the final has been long and hard — placing second in their first-round group to Glenmuir High, beating high-flying Irwin High in the second round, beating the St James team twice. They were also second to Manchester High in their round of 16 group and, after losing their first two games in the quarter-final, beat Edwin Allen 2-0 in their final game and advanced as the second-place team on a better goal difference behind Clarendon College.
In comparison, Clarendon College cruised, winning their first-round group easily, drawing one of eight games, then hammering St Mary Technical in the second round and winning all their games in the round of 16 and the quarter-finals with a 17-1 goal aggregate.