SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Clarendon College remained on course to secure a 10th ISSA/Digicel daCosta Cup title as they booked a date with first-time finalists Central High in what will be an all-Clarendon affair.
Both registered identical 5-4 sudden-death penalty victories over the Manning's School and Manchester High after playing out 1-1 stalemates in their respective semi-finals at the St Elizabeth Technical High Sports Complex on Wednesday.
Clarendon College, who won nine titles between 1977 and 2019, came from behind against last season's beaten finalists Manning's, who went in front through Jhamaleek Porter's 15th minute strike, which was later cancelled out by Keheim Dixon (52nd).
After Malachi Douglas dashed the first kick, Dixon, Okeemo Jones, Christopher Hull and Devonti Hodges made no mistakes from the 12-yard spot, while Deandrae Gallimore buried the sudden-death kick to ensure Clarendon College's unbeaten record remained intact heading into Next Saturday's finale.
Abeena Wallace, Rushawn Graham, Shamar Hamilton and Javin Williams successfully converted for Mannings High, as Devonte Rodney and Kajaye Williams had their efforts kept out by Romeo Daniels in goal for Clarendon College.
Meanwhile, Central and Manchester High, who were meeting for the second time this season, again failed to separate themselves in an entertaining contest.
Captain Dylane Clarke fired Central in front in the 24th monute, but Manchester replied through a well-taken 54th-minute penalty from substitute Nickoy Bartley.
In the shootout, Central converted their first four kicks courtesy of Javel Barnes, Stephen Hamilton, Nathaniel Howe and Rohan Lynch, before Emory Ayton had what should have been the winning kick saved. It took captain Clarke to spare his blushes as he converted in sudden death.
Before that, Manchester had converted through Yarek Carnegie, Adrian Campbell, Shaquiel Campbell and Jhaeem Bryan, with Seijii Ashman saying his effort and Tyrese Douglas having his sudden death kick saved.
Central High Head Coach Jermaine Douglas lauded his team's grit in getting the job done to set up the derby. The best placing prior to this season was a quarter-final spot in 2012.
"I'm overjoyed, I'm happy for the boys and for the community. These young guys have worked hard, they have put in the work all season and they are now reaping the rewards," Douglas said in a post-game interview.
"It is always a good thing when you have a derby at any level but especially in a final it's even more exciting and so we are looking forward to it," he added.
Douglas's Central High started what was a repeat of their round-of-16 meeting with Manchester, which ended 1-1, on the back foot, but later found themselves in front against the run of play.
On what was their first real attack of the feature game, Clarke fired home from a rebound after Rhajay Lewin's header from Howe's weighted cross was parried by Shamar Commock in goal for Manchester.
Manchester mounted a rally and should have pulled level in the 35th when Roshaun Reynolds was felled inside the danger area. However, Carnegie fired the 12-yard kick onto the woodwork.
But the towering player sporting the number 11 jersey redeemed himself on the resumption when he won a penalty nine minutes in for Bartley to step up and convert.
Both teams threw some weight in attack as they hunt the deciding goal, but it was Manchester who had the better of chances which they failed to capitalise on and later paid for their profligacy in the shootout to again fall by the wayside at this stage, like they did in 2015.
Earlier, Mannings came out in their usual spirited manner and eventually broke the deadlock when Porter was allowed too much time and space at the top of the 18-yard box to fire past the hapless Romeo Daniels in goal for Clarendon College.
Though the score went unchanged at the break, the Westmoreland-based Manning's had very few answers to Clarendon College's consistent pressure in the push for the equaliser.
It inevitably came seven minutes after the break when Okeemo Jones' weighted cross was headed down by Keheim Dixon and into the net after being fumbled by custodian Ashawni Campbell.
From there it was all Clarendon College, who had squandered numerous opportunities to win it in regulation time, but instead rode their fortunes into the dreaded penalties where they prevailed.
— Sherdon Cowan