Annai Secondary will today come up against St. Ignatius Secondary to determine the champions of Region Nine in the seventh annual Digicel Schools Football Championships.
High-octane action is always expected whenever these teams collide, and today’s competition, to be held at the St. Ignatius Community Centre Ground, is certainly no different.
Annai’s path to the final was orchestrated by a Naidison Daniels hat-trick when Aishalton was obliterated 8-0 in the presence of a partisan and very vocal crowd at the aforementioned venue on Saturday. Support came from Owen Scipio, Sherral Daniels, Clinton Philips, Vasco Cabral and Mattias Milton.
Playing in intermittent showers against the backdrop of the picturesque Rupununi mountains, Scipio was the first to score, blasting in a right-footer that beat the diving keeper to his left in the 4th minute. Naidison then produced a solo effort, slipping past two defenders to unleash a powerful shot to the low left, leaving the opposition rattled in the 15th minute.
Seconds before the blow of the half-time whistle, Sherral then increased the Annai lead in the 35th minute, to end a one-sided first half game 3-nil.
When play resumed, the pendulum continued to swing in favour of Annai, with Philips placing his name on the score sheet in the 38th minute, followed by Naidison repeating this act in the 45th. The carnage continued when Cabral added another goal with a classic leaping header three minutes later.
Aishlaton’s Ben Realine had a few chances to help his team make a mark, but those efforts were thwarted by steely defending by left-back Nestan Newton.
In the 67 minute, Milton hammered the final nail in the Aishalton coffin, much to the delight of the Annai supporters.
Meanwhile, in the clash between the home side and Sand Creek Secondary, the former edged ahead 3-2 in an evenly contested affair which had the fans on the edge of their seats by the see-saw action.
The unrelated duo of Jared and Cleon George made the difference in the engrossing affair, Jared causing eruption of monstrous cheer in the 25th minute with a remarkable right-foot shot from wide on the left that dipped under the cross-bar. Eight minutes later, Cleon took it upon himself to increase the lead with an unaccompanied effort, stretching his long legs to glide pass the opposition’s backline.
The second half began in erratic fashion as Sand Creek’s Bronson Andrew had his goal disallowed due to his being off-side. Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Jared scored his second goal in the 45th minute, and the result seemed ominous.
However, Sand Creek found enough enthusiasm to score two goals in the space of four minutes and change the complexity of the match. Andrew was the first to score, in the 63rd; but it was Hilton Pabalo’s effort that raised the goose bumps. He physically battled his way down the left flank, then released a bullet-like shot that rattled the standstill keeper.
The late surge was, however, far too late, as the home side compacted their defence to remain ahead at the final whistle.
Today’s final will commence at 16:00 hrs, and the winners are set to receive $100,000 and a match against the Region 5 finalist.
The school that wins the entire championship will collect $1,000,000, to go towards a project of their choice, along with the championship trophy. Second, third and fourth-placed finishers will receive $700,000, $400,000 and $350,000 respectively; and these sums of money are for a project of the school’s choice. The final is slated for July 30 at Leonora.