San Juan Jabloteh are champions of the Under-13 division in the Youth Pro League (YPL), for a fifth consecutive time, securing the crown on the penultimate match day on Saturday.
The race for the YPL Under-15 and Under-17 titles, however, goes down to the wire on final league day next Sunday with four teams in each division still standing with a mathematical chance.
Jabloteh U-13s, though, stretched their unbeaten run to eight from eight with a 6-1 win over bottom-placed Defence Force FC in front of home supporters at San Juan North Secondary, to put an unassailable 22 points on the standings.
Defence Force fell behind after just three minutes when Malik Harraman inadvertently headed past his own goalkeeper Josiah Chandler, before Jabloteh forward Lindell Sween (9th, 20th & 30th) snatched his seventh, eighth and ninth goals of the season. Raheem Mohan (13th) and Thane Devenish (17th), another player on nine goals, scored the other items for the eventual champions.
Roshaun Doobay converted from the penalty spot after 12 minutes for Defence Force's consolation item.
Jabloteh qualified for the 2019 Concacaf U-13 Champions League (August 10-17) as champions of last season’s YPL, and their follow-up this season earns them a fourth qualification at the international tournament in 2020.
Keith Jeffrey, head coach of the Jabloteh U-13s, was in full praise of his players and staff after securing the division's league title and a place at next year’s Concacaf tournament.
“We have Thane [Devenish], our second choice goalkeeper, we used as a wide outfield player and he scored nine goals in the tournament, including two hat-tricks; Joachim Calendar, a stalwart at the back; Kendell Castle, who has improved in midfield; Ability Hazel, captain of the team who has done an excellent job in keeping a lot of clean sheets; and we have [Lindell] Sween, another top goal scorer for us. These players make up the backbone of the team that has made us successful for the 2019 season,” said a glowing Jeffrey.
He added, “Coaches Dave Weekes and Andre ‘Andy’ Morales have assisted me in the success of the team. The administrative managers making everything possible administratively are Charmaine Villafana and Cyril George.
"It was a total effort and the success belongs to everyone at the club.”
Jeffrey, who is also technical director and first team head coach of the San Juan club, said winning the youngest age-group a fifth time in a row shows the level of standard set by Jabloteh in youth football.
"We have a brand in our youth programme,” he pointed out, “and we ask players coming into Jabloteh to honour this brand which has a history of success.”
Rivals W Connection (17 points) and Central FC (15 points) in second and third respectively after both sides were held to a 2-2 draw by Club Sando and Morvant Caledonia United, respectively, are left to battle for U-13 runners-up.
Jabloteh U-13s, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the Youth Pro League Cup (knockout) May 26-June 16, and the Concacaf U-13 Champions League in August.
Jeffrey said the YPL Cup competition will provide a huge challenge for his outfit, pointing out that U-13 teams such as Central, North East Stars and Sando are very good teams. “In knockout it’s on the day so we must prepare to go very hard. It will be a final for us against every team we face.”