HAILE Selassie High remain on course to rewrite the history books as they marched into their first schoolboy football final to challenge four-time champions Tivoli High for the ISSA/Digicel Walker Cup knockout title.
Both non-traditional high schools registered identical 1-0 victories over the more resourceful Wolmer's Boys' and St George's College (STGC) in their respective semi-final encounters at the Stadium East field on Tuesday.
Jahwan Payne's 57th strike proved all-important for the Payne Avenue-based Haile Selassie which sat out last season, while Tivoli's decisive strike came courtesy of Dwayne Johnson (26th) who ensured they remain on course to snap a 17-year drought dating back to 2005. Their other titles were won in 1978, 1994 and 1996.
Christopher Nicholas, who is making his first final as a coach at Tivoli, says this represents the first step of bringing the west Kingston-based school back to its glory days.
"It's a work in progress. What you see here is just the start because we still have a lot to work on same way. But, it's a good step forward to get Tivoli back to where it needs to be — both in schoolboy football and the community," he told reporters in a post-game interview.
STGC's Head Coach Neville "Bertis" Bell expressed disappointment at his team's wastefulness despite playing the final 30 plus minutes with 10 players, this as Joshua Jackson was red-carded in the 56th minute for serious foul play.
"We certainly got the chances. We got a penalty and we missed so I'm a little disappointed because we certainly got the chances to win this game. But, I'm so proud of these boys. I congratulate Tivoli and Haile Selassie and I wish them well," Bell said.
Surprisingly, Tivoli fired the first warning shot from a spirited start in which they dominated early proceedings, offering STGC no clear path toward goal, much less to get a shot off.
Such was their high line and consistent press that STGC's first real effort came from a distance in the 22nd minute through Adrian Reid Jr, but Tivoli's custodian, diving to his left, proved equal to the task.
The west Kingston-based team eventually broke the deadlock when Horatio Wanliss produced a burst of speed to dismiss his marker down the left channel before floating a weighted cross in for Johnson to expertly head home from close range.
STGC could have pulled level five minutes after the break as Jackson had a glorious opportunity from close range, but this was muffed.
And to add insult to injury he was later given marching orders.
Earlier, after playing out a goalless first half, both Wolmer's Boys' and Haile Selassie showed more purpose on the resumption as they probed for the go-ahead goal to add life to the game.
The small but vocal crowd didn't have to wait long for Haile Selassie 12 minutes in when Payne's left-footed drive from just outside the 18-yard box beat the dive of Roan Melford in goal for the Heroes' Circle boys.
– Sherdon Cowan