“Ain’t nobody, ain’t nobody better than Pres!”
Uninhibited jubilation. When referee Nicholas Murray’s whistle sounded to signal the end of today’s final round match at Mucurapo Road, Presentation College (San Fernando) celebrated their 2-1 away win over Fatima as if celebrations were going out of style.
The victory meant that the “Pres Lions” had finally copped the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division title in a topsy-turvy season when, on the final match-day, any one of three teams still had a mathematical chance of being crowned champions.
“The institution is bigger than us and this win was for the institution,” said Presentation coach Shawn Cooper. “I think the principal and the staff at Presentation College worked tirelessly in keeping the boys focused both on and off the field as student athletes.”
But Fatima ensured that Presentation’s victory was no walk in the park and, on an exciting final day in the Premier Division, the visitors needed a second-half strike by sub Nathaniel Dyer to seal the title.
Profiting from an SSFL boardroom decision which went against Shiva Boys Hindu College for their use of defender Matthew Beal, Presentation had yesterday jumped to the top of the table. And they were able to stay there thanks to Dyer’s 63rd minute goal.
The teams were all tied up after the first half, Jordan Riley’s penalty being cancelled out by a leveller from opposing skipper Joshua Araujo-Wilson.
Meanwhile, Naparima, nipping at the leaders’ heels at the start of the day, were doing their utmost to pile on the pressure, leading Trinity College Moka 5-0 at the interval. The 2014 and 2015 title-winners eventually ran out 8-2 victors, good enough to propel them above title hopefuls St Anthony’s College who succumbed away to CIC in the “Battle of the Saints” at Serpentine Road.
“Today, it was a difficult [game] because I had to keep the boys focused,” Cooper told Wired868. “Coming into the game with a two-point lead, a draw could have left us losing on goal difference to Naparima because we knew they had Moka at home and they took them to a bigger and flatter field in Point Fortin where they could use their pace and guile.”
The news of Naps’ dominant performance at Mahaica Oval did not dampen the ardour of one lanky Presentation supporter who remained bold in his predictions.
“Naps could score about 15!” he exclaimed, “but we will still get the job done.”
He might well have believed every word of it but it was not obvious to the observer; his body language as he constantly paced up and down the side-lines did not convey the same confidence contained in his statement.
Perhaps the Presentation players too weren’t quite feeling it as they never really looked like the cohesive unit their fans have become accustomed to seeing. Truth be told, Fatima never really allowed them to settle, coach Wayne Sheppard’s side stroking the ball around nicely and pressing the Lions relentlessly.
“Is only one team under pressure inno,” Sheppard reminded his audience. “We are good.”
Sheppard, it is worth noting, is assistant coach to Cooper at Queen’s Park Cricket Club, a factor which, according to Cooper, contributed to a more keenly fought contest.
“Their coach Wayne Sheppard and I work together at Queen’s Park. He’s a very knowledgeable coach […] and he knows me inside out.”
Prior to Riley’s 21st-minute penalty, the hosts had looked a more composed unit but their 39th-minute leveller was, to tell the truth, fortuitous. Araujo-Wilson found himself on spot to nod the ball into the net from close range after a Presentation defender inadvertently headed a set piece off Jabari Gray’s crossbar.
Araujo-Wilson’s headed equaliser made for an interesting off-the-field side-show between Cooper and Sheppard and a couple near misses by Presentation midfielder Darnell Hospedales raised the tension for Cooper even more. On the stroke of half-time, the midfielder sent a close-range volley wide of the mark after fellow midfielder Terrell Williams played a sweet, lofted pass from the right.
“How he miss there?” a perplexed Cooper asked his technical staff members.
With National Under-15 attacker Jean-Heim McFee up top, Fatima always looked a threat. However, Riley is no slouch on the break himself and he gave wing-back Luke Boucaud a good runaround today.
Kees Dieffenthaller’s “Fighter” had been blaring from the Pres dressing room and the new Premier Division champions must have drawn their pre-game inspiration from it. On the hour mark, Cooper made a substitution which ultimately sent the title to the Southland and Presentation’s doorstep.
Cooper declined to take all the credit for himself, though, heaping praise on his technical staff and Presentation Principal Dexter Mitchell.
“I don’t think they could have gotten a better principal,” he told Wired868. “Since Mr Mitchell came to the school, we have been winning a lot of things; he’s a sort of blessing in disguise for us…
“We had the top performer in the Caribbean in the CAPE exam. And last week I asked him what box is left to tick and he said to bring home a title.”
The speedy Dyer, who has often been used to devastating effect off the bench alongside Jaiye Sheppard, came on the pitch in the 60th minute. Just three minutes later, he had a goal, decisive as it turned out. Stealing the ball off an opposing defender, he wiggled past a couple more Fatima players before banging a right-footed effort past Jacob Camacho between the uprights.
Dyer was able to bask in the glory of his achievement immediately after his close-range effort had rippled the net. But twice thereafter, the home team came dangerously close to spoiling the moment for him with efforts from lanky National Under-15 attacker Jean-Heim McFee.
“I must say kudos to them for giving this last game such a momentous feeling because it was not like we ran over them,” Cooper conceded. “They gave us a fight down to the very last minute.”
In the end, however, when Murray’s final whistle went, the score-line still read Presentation 2, Fatima 1.
And the southerners made merry on Mucurapo Road singing the refrain:
“Ain’t nobody, ain’t nobody better than Pres!”
Fatima College (5-3-2): 1.Jacob Camacho (GK); 7.Stephon Marcano, 22.Jaheim Aguilleria (15.Elisha Taylor 77), 8.Isaiah Lamont, 3.Joshua Evans, 14.Luke Boucaud; 17.Luke Darwent (13.Zachary Welch 70), 10.Andrew Abraham, 20.Jean-Heim McFee; 4.Joshua Araujo-Wilson, 9.Mikhail McComie (11.Justin Araujo-Wilson 65).
Unused Substitutes: 21.Luke Gooding, 36.Lucas Farfan, 40.Matthew Pereira.
Coach: Wayne Sheppard
Presentation College (San F’do) (4-2-3-1): 22.Jabari Gray (GK) [captain]; 16.Mylz Barrington, 3.Juaval Roberts, 2.Shirwin Noel, 17.Omari Cobham (11.Nathaniel Dyer 60); 12.Jerrin Jackie, 8.Terrell Williams; 10.Jordan Riley (15.Aleem Barclay 90+5), 6.Ackeel Jacob (9.Jaiye Sheppard 72), 27.Darnell Hospedales; 7.Omri Baird.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Ishmael Salaam (GK), 13.Christoph John, 19.Zion Springer, 20.Shakeem Julien.
Coach: Shawn Cooper
Referee: Nicholas Murray
Wired868 Man-of-the-Match: Jordan Riley (Presentation College)
SSFL Premier Division Results
(Saturday 4 November)
Fatima College 1 (Joshua Araujo-Wilson 39), Presentation College 2 (Jordan Riley 21 pen, Nathaniel Dyer 63) at Fatima;
St Benedict’s College 3, Shiva Boys HC 2 at Barrackpore;
St Mary’s College 2 (Terran Winner 49, Devon Charles 63), St Anthony’s College 1 (Krishon Alexander 57) at St Mary’s;
Naparima College 8 (Rondell Payne 5, Ronaldo McIntosh 6, 60, Kodel Frontin 19, Declan Marcelle 37, Mark Ramdeen 40, 50, Judah St Louis 68), Trinity College Moka 2 (Saleem Henry 72, Jevon Ward 88) at Mahaica Oval.
Champions: Presentation College (San Fernando)
Leading Scorer: Judah St Louis (Naparima College) 11 goals
Demoted: Speyside High School, Signal Hill Secondary, Shiva Boys Hindu College and the suspended Fyzabad Secondary.
Promoted: East Mucurapo Secondary (North Zone), Valencia Secondary (East Zone), Bishop’s High School (Tobago Zone).
(Played-Won-Drew-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
- Presentation 14-11-2-1-39-12-35
- Naparima 14-10-3-1-38-15-33
- St Anthony’s 14-9-3-2-43-22-30
- San Juan N 14-7-5-2-38-16-26
- Fatima 14-8-1-5-22-16-25
- St Mary’s 14-5-4-5-28-28-19
- Carapichaima E 14-5-3-6-23-21-18
- Trinity East 14-5-3-6-22-20-18
- QRC 14-5-3-6-25-25-18
- St Augustine 14-5-1-8-26-32-16
- St Benedict’s 14-4-4-6-22-29-16
- Trinity Moka 14-4-2-8-20-38-14
- Speyside High 14-3-1-10-11–44–10
- Signal Hill 14-2-3-9-13-28-9
- Shiva Boys HC 14-3-0-11-12-37-9