Jardel John of St Augustine Secondary

FLASHBACK: Jardel John of St Augustine Secondary, centre tries to squeeze past San Juan North Secondary players Keanu John, left, and Isaiah Chase during their Coca-Cola InterCol East Zone final at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar on November 21. San Juan went on to win their fourth straight East Zone title 3-1.

—Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY.

They are two of the steadiest teams in secondary schools football but also two sides with not enough to show for that consistency. However, Presentation College San Fernando and San Juan North Secondary both have the chance to improve their records this afternoon when they meet in the grand final of Coca-Cola InterCol.

The Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva will be the neutral turf on which four-time defending East Zone champions San Juan and new South Zone winners Presentation will battle for the right to replace Naparima College as InterCol kings.

Two champions will be crowned this afternoon as, at 3 p.m., Pleasantville Secondary of the South Zone will put their Girls InterCol title on the line against Tobago queens, Signal Hill Secondary. Both schools scored comfortable semi-final wins to get to the final, Pleasantville overpowering Five Rivers Secondary 8-0 and Signal Hill beating Carapichaima East Secondary 8-1.

The goals are expected to flow again in the final, with Pleasantville the favourites to retain their crown.

In the Boys’ decider, however, the match could be a more cagey affair, if recent finals are anything to go by.

When San Juan and Presentation met in the final in 2016, Brandon Semnper’s goal won it for the easterners. The following year, San Juan were shut out 2-0 by Shiva Boys Hindu College and last year, the Bourg Mulatresse outfit lost 4-3 on spot kicks to Naparima after the sides drew goalless in regulation time.

This therefore will be San Juan’s fourth straight trip to the national final. But if they are to become winners for the third time in their history, coach Jerry Moe’s charges must find a way to score, something they have not done since 2016.

“We know that Presentation are one of the better teams defensively, so it will be critical for our strikers to be clinical and put away their chances,” San Juan manager Stephen Clarke noted yesterday. At the same time, he is hoping that his own defence remains as solid as they have been all season.

Anchored at the back by seasoned goalkeeper Emmanuel John, San Juan cannot afford to have an off-day, for they will be facing an invigorated Presentation side.

“They are very confident,” the usually guarded Presentatiion coach Shawn Cooper said of his boys. “After the South final, that gave them a new lease on life...They are now starting to believe in their ability.”

“Pres” ended Naparima’s two-year unbeaten run at the top level with a victory on spot kicks. And that triumph seemed to release the shackles on the side skippered by Aleem Barclay. They made surprisingly light work of St Anthony’s College in the national semi-finals, winning 3-1.

Jaiye Sheppard and Ackeel Jacob have been the Pres main men in front of goal, and they accounted for all the strikes against the “Tigers.” San Juan cannot grant them the freedom the St Anthony’s defence did last Friday.

But today’s match can do with a few goals, especially an early one to give the final the kind of spectacle the season has lacked for the most part.

San Juan, however, will not care how the win comes, so long as it does. This game will be the last chance at glory for this group that has brought a new level of success to the school.

“Half of the team, this is their last year, including the captain, Renaldo Boyce. He has been the captain for the last three years and those are the years we weren’t successful, so he would want to go out on a high as well,” manager Clarke said.

Boyce was a goal-scoring hero in the InterCol campaign of four years ago. He would love to be the hero today but hungry Pres—with just a shared InterCol title in their history (1975) to celebrate—will take a lot of stopping.

Kick-off is 5 p.m.

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