As the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) boys’ Big 5 championship playoffs finally kicked off on Friday, a pair of Fridays found the back of the net for their respective teams as St Augustine Secondary and Moruga Secondary battled to a 1-1 draw.
The Big 5 playoffs are used at the end of the SSFL season to promote the top three championship division teams to the subsequent premier division season. The playoffs for the 2023 season had a lengthy delay, though, as Central zone winners Miracle Ministries Pentecostal High School and South zone winners Moruga, were initially stripped of their title-winning status owing to registration issues.
However, on January 14, a three-man SSFL arbitration committee overturned the decisions of the league’s disciplinary and appeals committees to reinstate both Miracle Ministries and Moruga as the rightful winners of their respective championship divisions.
On the first day of the Big 5 playoffs, though, the four teams in action could not be separated. Miracle Ministries and North zone winners Blanchisseuse played to a goalless draw in Edinburgh, Chaguanas in the other match.
At their school compound, the hosts St Augustine took the lead against Mourga in the 35th minute when Ethan Friday broke the deadlock. St Augustine created their fair share of chances in the contest, with Moruga custodian Adriano Baptiste making at least six crucial saves to keep his team in the tight contest.
In the 79th minute, the “Green Machine” faithful were left seeing double when Malique Friday got a vital equaliser to ensure Moruga a share of the spoils and cancel out the earlier goal by his namesake, Ethan. Moruga’s next encounter will be against Tobago zone winners Signal Hill Secondary on February 16. Signal Hill were on a bye. St Augustine will host Blanchisseuse in their next game on February 16.
In their first Big 5 game, Blanchisseuse had their keeper to thank for preserving a point away to Miracle Ministries, as he made a series of outstanding saves throughout the encounter. Small in stature, Simon Kirk was a tower of strength between the sticks for Blanchisseuse and he kept Miracle Ministries at the bay. The Central zone winners shaded the keenly contested match and created the better opportunities, but critically, they could not find a way past Kirk to break the stalemate. The teams will observe a break for Carnival, before rekindling their 2024 premier division aspirations in two weeks.