Photo: Rashwan Mackison has grown in the role as striker for Kingston College and will lead the line for the defending champions who go up against Jamaica College in the final today at the National Stadium starting at 5pm.
Ever since defending champions Kingston College (KC) and last year’s losing finalists Jamaica College (JC) ended up on opposite sides of the draw it seemed almost inevitable that the two would meet once again in the final of the ISSA.FLOW Walker Cup competition. The two will do battle today inside the National Stadium beginning at 5pm.
Kingston College have inched their way to the final, squeezing by rivals St. George's College 2-1 in the quarterfinals before edging St. Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) 1-0 in the semifinals to return to the final of the urban area knock-out show piece.
But while KC has struggled to score JC has been banging in the goals, scoring a comfortable 3-1 win over St. Catherine High in the quarterfinals, then spanking Calabar High 6-1 in the semifinals to return to the finals of the only competition that their coach Miguel Coley has never won in his previous four years in charge at the school.
When the two teams met in last year's final, JC were the overwhelming favourites but they were upstaged 2-0 by a determined KC who were winning their first schoolboy football title in 16 years. They have met only once since then, in the quarterfinal round of the Manning Cup where KC again won 2-0.
Miguel Coley has built up a reputation as the coach who never loses twice to the same opponent in the same season and with the Manning Cup loss still fresh in his memory, is expected to make the adjustments that will finally bring him Walker Cup glory.
However, wrenching the title from Ludlow Bernard may not be as easy as it sounds as this is the title that he knows how to win. Bernard won the competition twice at Wolmer's Boys before taking over and winning at KC and will be determined to repeat for his alma mater. There is pressure on Bernard to bring silverware to North Street this year so repeating as Walker Cup champions would be a good place to start.
JC's attacking threat comes from Tevin Rochester in midfield being able to supply silky Tyreek Magee and the determined Norman Campbell up front. The two have been complimented by Shaniel Thomas and between them carry the main threat to unlocking the KC defence.
The prolific Rashawn Mackison has yet to open his account in this competition despite scoring a league leading 19 goals in the Manning Cup so far. He will be anxious to break the proverbial ‘duck’ and the final would be the perfect place for him to do so. Mackison is not the only threat that KC posses in attack as goals have come from all over the park this term. Their assist leader Renato Campbell has chipped in with five goals all told, including the winner against STATHS on Saturday and his influence has been all over KC's success to date.
While their goal scoring has slowed down to a trickle in the Walker Cup, Bernard is not the least bit worried about KC's form in front of goal. He insists that winning trophies will come from being solid in defence and that is where the emphasis has to be placed right now.
"I keep saying that we need to be defensively strong, defence is what is going to let us win championships this year. As much as we have been scoring goals defence is what is going to do it for us," the 52 year old coach insisted.
The KC coach is aware of the reputation of his opposite number and is ready to counter, the counter Coley is expected to throw his way.
"Against Jamaica College, it's another derby game. We are really looking forward to that one. Knowing coach Coley, he is going to do his homework, he is going to plot, he is going to scheme, we have to be able to counter that. It is really going to be a match of wits between two coaches who are very desirous of winning titles," Bernard said of the final.
The boys from Old Hope Road are on a mission and are ready to turn the tables on their rivals.
"The team is pretty confident and cognizant that it will be a tough game. We are confident, we are always confident,” said Coley. “We have to use the past in a positive way,” he said in response to questions about the loss earlier this season to KC.
Kingston College has won the Walker Cup a record equaling nine times, the same as St. George’s College while Jamaica College has won it only twice. It promises to be another fascinating final between these two teams and it may just come down to the adjustments made by the coaches that determine the destination of the first schoolboy football trophy to be won in 2017.