BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 6, 2017 - - We must confess, we haven’t watched many of the high school football games, played in a whirl-wind CSSSA (Central Secondary Schools Sports Association) tournament over the past three weeks at the MCC Grounds; but the playoffs are always exciting, especially when it is “win, or go home.”
For the girls, with 6 high schools participating, they each played 5 games in their regular season, and then it was on to the best-of-two games semifinals. For the boys, with 11 high schools involved, Group 1 had 6 teams and Group 2 had 5 teams. So, their regular season for Group 1 was 5 games, and for Group 2, they only played 4 games total in their 2016-2017 CSSSA regular season. Then the top 4 from each group were matched in one-game knockout quarterfinals. The surviving 4 male teams were then paired in the best-of-two games semifinals.
The quality of play was not very high in most games of the CSSSA tournament. If regular season was longer, perhaps the teams would have time to develop some cohesion and game structure. But there is still a lot of talent on display, and the level of intensity is high, as expected from our youths. And the teams that have reached the finals show some evidence of great coaching effort, especially the SCA girls team, who are undefeated so far in the tournament. Coach Mario Rodriguez of SCA especially, and also coach Daniel Smith of Ladyville Tech are to be commended.
Semipro player Ryan Simpson has been working with the SJC boys team, and they have given good account of themselves against a much more talent laden opponent in Gwen Liz High.
An interesting aspect of the CSSSA football tournament, is the prominent presence of a number of male players we have seen grow up over the past few years from the Smart U-13 series to the BDFA U-15 and even to the CYDP Peace Cup, where they competed against much older men. Gwen Liz is fortunate to have a majority of such players, but the SJC team has a few also. Gwen Liz boasts a number of former stars from the Smart U-13 – players like #6 Jaydon McGregor, #14 Keron Patnett, #9 Orlando Velasquez, #17 Hakeem Smith and #3 Michael Palacio come to mind. Gwen Liz is coached by PLB referee Windell Esquiliano, and his challenge is one that faces many a coach when blessed with such an abundance of talent to harness. For his part, SJC’s coach Simpson does have some familiar names, though not all old enough to break into the starting line-up. His midfield general is #10 Dion Cacho who was a U-13 star that travelled to the Smart/Barcelona camp in Miami a couple years ago. And #8 Shemar Waight, still quite young, was also outstanding in the Smart U-13. #11 Carlos Guerra is also a major talent on SJC.
The semifinal series for females and males were concluded on Saturday, so today, it was game 1 of the best-of-two games championship finals series.
Both games today ended with 2-0 scores, with all goals coming in first half. In the females, SCA dropped Ladyville Tech, 2-0, with a goal apiece from Jodi Pott and Gabriela Mendoza. And in the males, it was Gwen Liz over SJC, 2-0, with a goal each from Keron Patnett and Michael Deshield.
The decisive game 2 of the finals is scheduled for Wednesday at the MCC.
Awesome SCA is poised to complete an undefeated run to the CSSSA female championship; only a spectacular effort from Ladyville Tech could upset their plans. But the odds are not good for Ladyville.
SJC, down 2-0 in game 1, will try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in game 2 on Wednesday; while Gwen Liz tries to seal the deal and go on to the Nationals, slated for next weekend, February 18-19.
If you want to see the female game in its entirety, make sure you are there well before the scheduled 4:30 p.m. start on Wednesday; because, if the teams manage to get there earlier, they might just go ahead and, like they did today, have an early kick-off.