Reigning Premier Division champion school, Naparima College, and challenger, St Mary’s College, took the plaudits on Round Two of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) on Saturday evening.
But, on Mucurapo Road, the less-heralded Shiva Boys Hindu College continued its own quiet campaign with a second successive win for the season. After Thursday’s 1-0 triumph over St Augustine Secondary, Shiva Boys held off Fatima College for a 2-1 win in north Trinidad.
The famous quotation on the the back of Shiva Boys’ blue shirts said it all: “Yes, we can.”
“A lot of people think we cannot do it,” said new Shiva Boys coach Hayden Ryan. “Because we lost a lot of important players last season. That is why we have ‘yes, we can’ on our shirts to remind us…”
Shiva Boys have said farewell to last season’s captain Marvin Seuradge and star attacker Levi Garcia, who sat in the stands yesterday but has already agreed terms with Netherlands top flight club, AZ.
Coach Dexter Francis, who made the Penal-based school a force to be reckoned with, has moved on too.
But Shiva still has the tools to upset the main contenders. Much will depend on how Ryan chooses to shape his squad and there were some tactical surprises already.
For instance, their top scorer last season, Rodney Quinn, was used on the flank against Fatima while winger Isaiah Garcia was a reluctant full back.
Upfront, Shiva striker Malik “Dangles” Lewis was not at his best and didn’t convince. But it was in the centre of the pitch that Ryan’s troops were particularly strong with the muscular Yohannes Richardson, the lively Shaquille John and, most of all, the artful Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel.
On either flank, Quinn and the baby-faced Ronaldo Edwards were a cauldron of energy and guile.
“Run at him! Deal with him! Punish him!” shouted the Shiva coach, as Quinn sprinted towards an opponent with the ball at his feet.
In contrast, Fatima was a neat, ball-playing team but lacked pace, width and penetration.
The die was set as early as the 12th minute, when Richardson brushed aside his own teammate, John, and belted an unstoppable blast past Fatima custodian Akiel Guerra from 25 yards.
Araujo-Wilson troubled Shiva right back Ryan “Bachac” Davis on occasion. But Fatima could not get behind the opposing back four, which was well marshalled by captain and central defender Kyle Sylvester.
And, as always, “Pappy” was a handful, despite looking only marginally interested in the game.
There was much discussion this week about the decision of 19-year-old San Juan Jabloteh striker Brent Sam, a coveted player at senior domestic level, to return to the schoolboys game with San Juan North.
Emmanuel is just 16. But we might be having that conversation about him soon as well, if he continues to stroll through matches in this manner. Yesterday, he repeatedly outfoxed opponents with his wall passes and pivots or bamboozled them with extravagant flicks before stroking balls into the channels.
He was involved in Shiva’s second, as Guerra failed to hang on to his free kick and Quinn prodded home the rebound.
The only question at that moment seemed to be how many Fatima would concede.
“Teach him a lesson! Bun out his valve!” Ryan yelled at Quinn, as he tore up the flank.
On that occasion, Quinn left Joshua Gooding in his wake and put Adam Uddenberg on his backside. But Shiva substitute Tyrell “Sexy Man” Baptiste diverted Quinn’s low cross straight at Guerra.
It is worth noting that, in the country, nicknames are often ironic.
At the next break in play, Ryan offered some finishing tips to “Sexy Man.”
“You have to look at the net and put it in the corner,” said the Shiva coach. “You were looking at the goalkeeper.”
Garcia (I), the younger cousin of Levi Garcia, also shared some pointers.
“Where the ball’s coming from, you have to shoot back towards that corner,” he advised his young striker.
There was a communal feel and united purpose about the Shiva squad, which spread from the starting players to the substitutes.
“We are a work in progress,” Ryan told Wired868. “We are playing in spurts. But we will get there.”
Fatima had the last word though.
Substitute striker Jonathan Casimire and Sylvester chased a long ball in the 79th minute and, by the time the Shiva captain realised that he had been beaten for pace, it was too late to avoid contact.
Sylvester already had his arms up and was trying to avoid Casimire when they collided. But referee Nigel Rama decided there was enough in it and pointed to the penalty spot.
Uddenberg converted the spot kick to give the home supporters something to cheer. But Fatima got no closer to a share of the spoils.
“I was pleased that we were able to put the ball on the ground and play,” said Spence. “We lost concentration a few times and it cost us. I wasn’t displeased with our performance.
“It’s just (that) when Shiva got theirs they made us pay.”
It might get worse before it gets better for Fatima, as the Mucurapo Road school travels to Serpentine Road on Wednesday to face high flying rival, St Mary’s College.
On the same day, Shiva Boys will host former captain, Seuradge, as he travels to Penal with Fyzabad Secondary. No doubt, Ryan and company will aim to show Seuradge the extent of their progress.
Shiva Boys HC (4-2-3-1): 24.Denzil Smith (GK); 13.Ryan Davis, 5.Jerome Samuel, 12.Kyle Sylvester (captain), 8.Isaiah Garcia; 11.Yohannes Richardson, 6.Tyrel Emmanuel; 7.Rodney Quinn, 33.Shaquille John, 14.Ronaldo Edwards (17.Mark Ramdeen 87); 9.Malik Lewis (19.Tyrell Baptiste 66).
Unused substitutes: 10.Judah Garcia, 15.Jabari Graham, 20.Dwight Lewis, 25.Joshua Douglas, 26.Jerome Samuel.
Coach: Hayden Ryan
Fatima College (4-1-4-1): 21.Akiel Guerra (GK); 24.Joshua Gooding, 23.Mosiah Griffith, 4.Adam Uddenberg, 3.Roger Williams; 8.Jahreed Murray (captain); 20.Stephon Marcano (7.Jonathan Casimire), 19.Andrew Abraham (14.Joshua Pierre 53), 12.John-Michael Herrera, 16.Joshua Araujo-Wilson; 10.Sebastien Camacho (18.Keyon Williams 65).
Unused substitutes: 1.Kareem Fermin (GK), 5.Tyreke Moore, 6.Sky Pouchet-Benoit, 9.Jireh James.
Coach: Jason Spence
Referee: Nigel Rama
Man of the Match: Rodney Quinn (Shiva Boys HC)
Yesterday’s SSFL Premier Division fixtures
Fatima College 1 (Adam Uddenberg 80), Shiva Boys HC 2 (Yohannes Richardson 12, Rodney Quinn 51), Fatima;
St Benedict’s College 0, San Juan North 3 (Brent Sam , Joshua Leach), Mahaica Oval, P/Fortin;
Carapichaima East 0, Fyzabad Secondary 1 (Nahshon Simon 65), Carapichaima;
St Anthony’s College 0, St Mary’s College 4 (Ethan Shim 5, Chinua Bernard 32, Daniel Conocchiari 65, Kyle Mowser 90), St Anthony’s;
St Augustine Secondary 2 (Isaiah Lee, Joshua Marshall), Speyside High 1, St Augustine;
Presentation San F’do 0, Naparima College 2 (Jarred Dass 54, Jeremiah Kesar 90), Mannie Ramjohn;
Trinity College East 0, QRC 2 (Demetri Dunkley 31, Keyshawn Villafana 64), Trincity;
(Wednesday September 16)
Presentation San F’do v Carapichaima East, 3.45 pm, Guaracara Park;
St Benedict’s College v St Anthony’s College, 3.45 pm, Mahaica Oval;
Trinity College Moka v Trinity College East, 3.45 pm, Moka;
Shiva Boys HC v Fyzabad Secondary, 3.45 pm, Penal;
San Juan North v Naparima College, 3.45 pm, San Juan;
QRC v St Augustine, 3.45 pm, QRC;
St Mary’s College v Fatima College, 3.45 pm, St Mary’s.