By Sean Devers in E’bo
On a wet and windy day on the Essequibo Coast, the Region three zone of the Digicel
National Schools Football competition kicked off on Sunday with a pulsating double header at the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) ground on the Essequibo Coast.
Aurora had advanced to the Region Three final of this competition for the last three years, each time they were beaten by Charity Secondary. But on Sunday, in torrential rain and on a heavy ground which proved brutal for tired legs and made long passing a nightmare, Eight of May Secondary got past Aurora Secondary 2-1 on penalty kicks in an exhilarating contest that ended 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
In the first game which began 30 minutes late, NOC, led by Goals from Cleon Austin, Jason Perriera, Stephon Apple and Mark Lawrence, beat Anna Regina Secondary (ARS), which is actually located in the Village of Cotton Tree, 4-nil.
In the opening game, Sherwin Greenidge had the first shot on goal in the 3rd minute but it was well saved by a diving Shquel Cummins. NOC responded a minute later with a shot that was also saved to set up what turned out to be a closely fought game despite the end result.
Under dark skies and a persistent shower which got harder as the afternoon progressed and a heavy and slippery surface which tested the fitness level of the players, Austin opened the account in 26th minute for NOC.
As the rain eased, ARG was guilty of not passing the ball enough and trying to dribble through the sturdy NOC’s defence and the first half ended 1-nil.
A harsh off-side call early in the second half negated a goal from Lawrence who scored NOC’s second goal in the 51st minute when he collected a pass and steered the ball past the advancing Keeper.
The sun returned briefly but the wet ball was getting heavier and as the players got more tired
the pace slowed. But the inclement weather did not prevent a raucous contingent of female NOC students from urging their team on and when Perriera buried one into the back of the net in 65th minute they could not contain themselves. A Penalty from Apple in the 69th minute sealed the issue for NOC.
The second game, between Aurora Secondary and 8th of May Secondary from the Village of Dartmouth, which got its name from the birth date of the late former Prime Minister Ptolemy Alexander Reid who was born in that Village, was even more exciting and keenly contested.
Wayon Friends wasted two easy opportunities to put Aurora ahead as the soggy state of the ground resulted in the long passes going nowhere and even though the only National player in the game was Aurora’s goal Keeper 16-year-old Dwayne Thomas, who played in the last year’s CONCACAF U-17 tournament in Dominica, it was the diminutive Jevon Forde who had a brilliant afternoon between the uprights for 8th of May and looked the better Keeper on the day.
The high swirling winds and slippery conditions made ball-control a difficult task for both teams, but the smaller 8th of May students looked the fitter side.
The hectic action continued with Rashid Thomas firing from close range and Forde bringing off a wonderful save. The energized striker pounced on the rebound but shot it high and wide, to the dismay of the National U-15 Cricket Team’s Manager Andy Ramnarine, the Manager of the Aurora team.
Aurora’s Lee Govia leaped above the defenders to smack a perfect header but Forde was gain equal to the task with another excellent save.
After a goalless first stanza, the second half was action-packed with both teams sharing almost equal ball possession and in attack mode. Forde was at his best, pulling off some stunning saves, including one from the penalty spot by Samuel Fraser. Forde also had some luck as a shot from Travis Bishop crashed into the Goal post with less than four minutes left in regulation time.
A defensive error left the lanky Dwayne Thomas all alone in goal and Shemar Dawson drove the ball to his right to make it one to nothing for 8th of May in the 60th minute in a battle of stamina in cold and chilly conditions.
Dwayne Thomas redeemed himself in pounding rain with a well taken free kick which Forde failed to gather and Rahid Thomas latched onto the rebound to level the score with a 62nd minute effort and despite repeated raids on each others goal to try and break the dead lock the riveting contest remained tied at regulation time and the game would be decided on five penalties by each side.
Forde’s confidence was high after saving a penalty during regulation time and saved two more when it most mattered as 8th of May celebrated a hard fought 2-1 win on Penalties on the 28th of June.
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