REIGNING Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) premier division champions St Benedict’s College will begin their title defence today, when they travel to San Juan North Secondary in Bourg Mulatresse, Santa Cruz, to kickstart the 2023 SSFL campaign.
On Saturday, Benedict’s started the season on a triumphant note as they defeated last season’s national intercol winners, Fatima College, in a 4-3 thriller at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, to lift the NGC Cup.
Looking towards the league season, Benedict’s coach Randolph Boyce says “nothing is guaranteed,” and he is expecting a tough matchup from San Juan, who won four straight east zone intercol titles from 2016 to 2019.
“You have to go and take whatever you want from this league,” Boyce told Newsday. “Any time you have to depend on another team for a result, you will go back home empty-handed.
“We want to win, of course. We hope that the football gods will be with us and we’ll have a nice run and be successful and try to win, if God sees it fit that way. Everything is in His hands.”
All 16 teams in the league will be in action today, with eight games scheduled for a 3.30 pm kick-off time in varying venues across TT.
San Juan’s clash with Benedict’s is arguably the most interesting game on paper, and San Juan coach Jerry Moe is expecting a stern test.
“It’s a tall order for the first game of the season to be against St Benedict’s, but we have to be up for it,” Moe said.
“We know St Benedict’s is a good team. We saw a bit of the game against Fatima on the weekend.
“We know they’re very dynamic and explosive going forward. They are a well-coached team so we expect a very tough game from them.”
In 2022, San Juan saw their winning streak (minus two years lost to covid19) in the east intercol come to an end, as Trinity College East (TCE) got a 1-0 win in their zonal final. On his goals for this campaign, Moe says he is looking to stay clear of the relegation zone after enduring a rough pre-season.
“Our objective this season, like most teams, will be to stay up in the premier division. And then whatever we get after, we will take it from there.”
Moe will be without his 2022 top-scorer Larry Noel, who has taken up a scholarship abroad.
However, TT under-17 attacker Lindell Sween has just entered form five at San Juan North, and his powerful left foot could be his school’s most dangerous weapon this season.
“We have a few new players who will be playing in front of that (Bourg Mulatresse) crowd for the first time,” Moe said. “I don’t know what to expect from them.”
Boyce also remains uncertain about the capabilities of his team’s first opponents this season.
“To me, that game is like a blind game because we haven’t seen San Juan for the season,” Boyce said.
“(San Juan) have got a glimpse of us and it will be a cagey affair because we have to go in and kinda feel them out.
“They have a history of being a team which always contests and reaches a final or wins a final. They are a team we cannot take lightly.”
At Fatima Grounds in Mucurapo, Fatima will be aiming to bounce back from their NGC Cup loss when they entertain fellow north powerhouse St Anthony’s College.
In addition to last year’s national intercol win, Fatima also copped the national under-14 and under-16 crowns and will fancy themselves as one of the title contenders.
In another north zone tussle, Malick Secondary will host Queen’s Royal College at St Mary’s Grounds in St Clair, with Malick seeking to avenge last season’s 2-1 north zone semi-final loss to the “Royalians.”
Four-time premier division champions Naparima College will try to get back to winning ways after going without a title last season, and they will begin their 2023 campaign by hosting reigning central zone intercol winners, Chaguanas North Secondary, at their Lewis Street, San Fernando home.
TCE copped their first east intercol title in 2022, and they will start their new season by hosting East Mucurapo Secondary at the school grounds in Trincity.
The trio of Arima North Secondary, St Mary’s College and Bishop’s High School (Tobago) have all returned to the premier division this season and will want to make their own impact.
Arima host Presentation College (San Fernando), St Mary’s travel to Pleasantville Secondary and Bishop’s meet Speyside Secondary in an all-Tobago affair.
Speyside football director Kerry Lynch has sounded a warning to Bishop’s ahead of their clash in Speyside, and he says his team will be working towards a top-five finish this season.
“I believe that we should have a very good showing (today) and for the season ahead,” Lynch said.
“I believe that we can make a top-five finish in the league this year. This year could be our best showing ever. I honestly believe so.
“We have the experience because this is our sixth year. This is just Bishop’s second season after five years out of the league. We have been in the league constantly so we have the experience. I believe we can put down a marker.”