CATHERINE HALL, St James — St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) will be chasing further schoolboy football history today when they take on first time finalists Grange Hill High in the final of the ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel Ben Francis Knockout set to start at 4:00 pm at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
STETHS, winners of the last two titles, are the first team to qualify for three straight Ben Francis KO finals and are seeking to become the first team to win three straight, breaking a tie with three other schools — Cornwall College 1983-84 and 2000-2001; Clarendon College 1989-1990 and Glenmuir High 1993-1994 and 2004-2005.
Standing in their way will be Grange Hill High of Westmoreland who will be seeking their first-ever senior football title and to start their own legacy of championships.
Ironically, Grange Hill's coach Dane Warren told the Jamaica Observer yesterday they were hoping to emulate STETHS' consistency in schoolboys football over the past few seasons that has seen them win a title in each of the previous three seasons and has qualified for four finals over the period.
"We know the history that we are up against... we are trying to emulate STETHS in their consistency and this group of players want to be the ones that start Grange Hill on that road to many finals," he said.
The Western Westmoreland based school had advanced to the semi-final of the daCosta Cup last year where they were beaten by STETHS on penalty kicks in Santa Cruz.
Both schools are coming into today's final off different build-ups as Grange Hill were knocked out of contention for a place in the daCosta Cup quarter-finals early, drawing against Frome Technical and losing to Spot Valley in their first two Inter-zone games, while STETHS have cruised, winning both Ben Francis KO games by a 5-0 aggregate then winning all three Inter-zone games by an 8-1 aggregate.
STETHS coach Omar 'Rambo' Wedderburn says he hopes today's game would be the first step towards three titles this season, and even more importantly, "will leave an impression for all the other schools to see".
Wedderburn told the Observer they had not seen Grange Hill all season but said that could be a plus for them. "This is better for us not to have seen them as we can focus on what we have to do," he noted.
The STETHS coach said his team was not depending on any one area as "we are a complete team, we are strong in all areas and we hope to prove that".
Grange Hill had finished their loss to Spot Valley with nine players after goalkeeper Omario Hendricks and midfielder Sheldon Smith were red carded and Warren had also complained about fatigue.
Yesterday, however, he said both players had served their one-match bans and they would get back influential central defender Clarence McNeil, who missed most of the season but played all 90 minutes in their 2-0 win over St James on Wednesday.
"Getting back McNeil means we will be able to play some players in their natural positions and this will be to our benefit," he pointed out.
The weather could be a factor as it rained all day in Montego Bay yesterday with the forecast for more rain today.
Road to the Ben Francis KO finals
Grange Hill beat Frome 8-7 on sudden death penalties
STETHS drew bye
Grange Hill beat William Knibb 1-0
STETHS beat Kemps Hill 3-0
Grange Hill beat Manchester High 2-1
STETHS beat Paul Bogle 2-0