SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — It is often said that when you lose a loved one it is best to honour them in such a way that best reflects the work they would have done and the exemplary way they would have lived.
For Clarendon College, their assistant manager, Neville "Manny" Peart, who died in a motor vehicle crash on Friday, represented excellence and a winning mentality and so their 3-0 win over first-time finalist Central High in the ISSA/Wata daCosta Cup showpiece was the perfect way to remember him and carry on his legacy.
Malachi Douglas (14th minute), Kristoff Graham (60th) and Keheim Dixon (85th) saw the Chapelton-based team to its 10th title at the St Elizabeth Technical High Sports Complex on Saturday, adding to those won in 1977, 1978, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2014, 2018, and 2019.
Head Coach Lenworth "Teacha" Hyde lauded his players for using their grief as motivation to deliver accordingly.
"We lost a stalwart in our system and it helped to motivate the players who I believe did well to repay him and also give his family something to celebrate," Hyde told the Jamaica Observer.
"We did what we were supposed to do, that's how we have been playing all season and so I'm very pleased that the players can be in a position to lift up the Chapelton name and give back to the fans like this," he added.
With Glenmuir High crowning themselves Ben Francis Knockout champions over Edwin Allen in the earlier Clarendon derby that whetted the appetites of spectators, the main course was anticipated to serve up a belly full, and that it did.
Though playing with heavy hearts, the Chapelton-based team dominated the early exchanges and, as expected, quickly forced Central High into a defensive posture with a series of marauding attacking spells.
It took some tidy glovework from Leon Ricketts in goal for Central High to first deny Dixon and then Douglas in quick succession.
But it was only a matter of time before Clarendon College found the breakthrough and it duly came when a excellently worked build-up down the left channel ended with Graham serving up a pass deep in the 18-yard box for Dixon to tuck home.
While they tried, Central were never really given any real opportunity to play, even more so, to get into the final third, at that point.
Such was Clarendon College's press from which they could have doubled the lead ahead of the break, had their strikers not be overly anxious to score.
Graham was one of those guilty players as Christopher Hull placed a pass on a platter for his conversion, but he lost his composure and skied a right-footer from deep inside the 18-yard box.
Central came out more purposeful on the resumption, as they unsettled Clarendon College and created a few openings, one of which Nathaniel Howe capitalised on, striking a sweet right-footer from 20 yards out that rattled the crossbar in the 50th minute.
However, it was the Clarendon College fans that were celebrating on the hour-mark as a delightful pass out from Devonti Hodges caught Central's defenders flat-footed, allowing Graham to pounce and glide his way into the box where he calmly slotted past the hapless Ricketts.
With their fans now in frenzy, Clarendon College asserted their authority in the probe to add to their tally and almost did in the 77th. This as Marques Reid cleared space for a well-struck right-footed shot from a distance which was parried unto the crossbar and over by Ricketts.
A third goal inevitably came when Reid produced a surging run on the left, beating two defenders before playing a pass across the face of goal for Dixon to tap in at goalmouth, five minutes from time.
While Central's fairytale run was all well and good, there was to be no happy ending for Head Coach Jermaine Douglas and his boys.
"It was a good run, it's good for the boys and the morale of the school community but to be honest, getting to the final we wanted to end the season with something positive but it wasn't to be," Douglas told the Observer.