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Part of the crowd at the Stadium East Complex


The National Stadium east field was a theatre of dreams. A footballing haven which buzzed with excitement as drum beats to the chants and tune of “Kaaay Ceee” and “Ceee Baaar” reverberated across the lengths and breadth of the huge grounds. Two juggernauts of high school sports emerged from below the thick, rowdy crowd of supporters. It was a day of reckoning for the Lions (Calabar) from Red Hills Road, who have been surprisingly impressive this season, and the Braves (Kingston College) from North Street, who are the pre-tournament favourites. It was not just another day of Schoolboy Football. It was rather another epic battle between two eternal rivals. The El Clasico of High School football.

The Braves got an electrifying start. No sooner than the referee sounded his whistle for kickoff they were pouncing on the Lions like hungry beasts seeking to devour flesh at a glance. They were frantic, but not exactly wild because they stroked the ball around the park at a quick tempo and with the greatest of ease. Calabar was literally chasing shadows early on and resultantly started chasing 1-0, as KC found the back of their net around the 4th minute. The goal came from a searching through ball that was played from the centre of the park down the right flank. Orane Thompson galloped unto it, held it up for the arrival of Roshawn Mackinson. Thompson rolled the ball perfectly into Mackinson's path, and he didn't even have to break his stride as he stroked the ball inside the far post, out of the reach of the goalkeeper's outstretched left arm.

Recognizing what hit them, Calabar started to bring the game to KC. They soon began to find their rhythm and roared back at the Braves by combining passes in the middle of the field. It was then that they got their first chance as a pass was strung into the path of the speedy Collin Anderson, who barreled his way forward. He loosed himself of a couple of defenders and into a 1v1 situation with the goalkeeper, Chadeem Rodriquez. The crowd chanted “goal!” as the ball rifled off his right foot, but the goal-bound effort was denied by Rodriquez who acrobatically dove to his right to parry the ball away, thus defusing a roaring attack from the Lions.

The game thereafter became equally poised as both teams went at each other resulting in end to end action. Calabar refusing to stay down, chased the game fervently. They began to up the ante as their supporters with their traditional battle cries fueled their drive. They got control of the ball in the middle of the field which the Braves seemingly gave up strategically. Apparently, this was done to take advantage of the flanks. Kingston College was in sixes and sevens. Chasing the ball at that point, but managed to absorb all the pressure. Calabar began to accumulate loads of chances, but their efforts, for the most part, petered out to nothing. Their shots were mostly well wide of the target and rather speculative from long range, including those from set-pieces. Kingston College conceded a lot of free-kicks in their defensive third.

The Braves after soaking up a few minutes of pressure pressed the release valve and unleashed a long ball towards Mackinson whose back faced Lion’s goal. It was obviously the assignment of two Lions to mark him as close as white is on rice, but the talented striker took the ball down with his chest and turned on a dime. All this in one perfect motion; leaving the two bewildered Lions for dead. One of them managed to stop him but only did so with a desperate foul. Had he managed to relieve himself from their claws, he would’ve been in a 1v1 situation with the goalkeeper. Calabar was lucky it was not in the treacherous penalty area.

The momentum subsequently shifted back into Kingston College’s favour late in the first half. The result of this was that they won a penalty to separate them from the Pride, but Omar Thompson, who aimed for the corner of the left upright shot went inches wide. The Kingston College contingent bemoaned the wasted chance and their sighs were deafening throughout the grounds.

The Lions made the Braves pay dearly as they won a corner in the late stages of the first half. The set piece was taken full advantage of as the ball was floated in the penalty area. Orane Ferguson quickly reacted to the treacherously bouncing ball and latched his head unto it sending it into the back of the net. The stadium erupted with roars as the Braves hung their heads in dismay. The first half ended 1-1.

The game ensued in the second half with Kingston College dominating possession, but their supplies from midfield to the flanks were being cut off by a more resolute and tactical second half by Calabar.

The Braves managed to find their way through the Lions’ defense, but their shots were for the most part, desperately close. In fact, they hit the crossbar about 3 times, and it would seem the game was destined before time to end in a draw. The Purples created a myriad of chances but they were wasteful, sending at least 2 free kicks won deep in Lion’s defense into the defensive wall.

Calabar also made it harder for Kingston College as the game approached its end as they employed a pressing tactic. This gave the Braves little room for comfort to build their attack from the back. As such the game ended 1-1 as there were no goals in the second half. Leaving Kingston College dejected. They were just too wasteful for their own liking. Missing out on so many opportunities to defeat their arch-rivals of high school competitions.

 

Alex Bent
Article by Alex Bent

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