January 2019 Volume 15

KC Celebrates Manning Cup Victory After 32 Years!!

Pat Bignall
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The 2018 Manning Cup Season began with high expectations from every Fortis stakeholder. In 2017 many thought KC had the winning Team, however, that Team only progressed to the semi-final round.

KC retained twelve (12) players from the 2017 season and Raymond Watson, the coach of the junior teams and one of the most successful coaches in the junior football programmes, was appointed Assistant Coach to Ludlow Bernard. This partnership further boosted confidence and elevated optimism that the drought could be broken in 2018. Additionally, there were some other talented players who either came up from the Under 16 Team or talents were unearthed. One that comes to mind is Ari Rodgers.

In the preliminary round, KC brushed aside every opponent easily, including traumatising its fiercest rival – Calabar - with a 4:0 win in its own backyard. KC ended the preliminary round with 52 goals with only one against.

At the Quarter Final Round, the goals were not coming as in the first rounds and some supporters seemed to have forgotten that competitions get harder as the teams advanced closer to the final. Our first game we drew against St. Georges 0-0 then the next game we drew against Charlie Smith 1-1. The naysayers raised their voices and many rolled back the curtains to the disappointments of 2017.

The final match was up against the high-riding Camperdown, buoyed by their 3:2 victory over Charlie Smith – a team that we drew against earlier in the round. The KC vs Camperdown match was billed “do or die” for KC. The SOS went out for full Fortis support and the Fortis fraternity heeded the call.

All four (4) matches in the final round of the quarter finals were played simultaneously – St. Georges against Charlie Smith and KC against Camperdown in our group. After 25 minutes the score was tied 0:0 and words came soon thereafter that St. Gorges had scored against Charlie Smith. We had to score 2 clear goals against Camperdown to get into the semi-finals. The team composed itself and represented the school’s motto excellently. Teamwork and determination paid off. KC won the game 2:0 with Ari Rodgers being the hero of the game. KC had now earned its spot into the semi-final.

Déjà vu!! -KC faced St. Andrew Technical (STATHS) in the semi-final – the very team that denied the KC team a place in the finals in 2017. In 2017 STATHS won the semi-finals 2-1 and in 2018 KC turned the tables winning with a similar margin of 2:1.

After 18 years, KC was back in a Manning Cup Final. And, it was a North Street Finals – St. Georges having gotten the better of JC in their semi final match-up.

Friday, November 30, was dubbed “The Battle of North Street” as KC and St. Georges were up against each other in the finals of the Colts Under-16 Competition and the Manning Cup at the National Stadium. Matches were played consecutively.

All roads leading to the National Stadium were choked with traffic and the delays appeared unending. The Grandstand was packed beyond its capacity and the bleachers directly in front almost capacitated. KC supporters far out-numbered their rivals and they were hungry for victory.

KC’s Colts Team won the first match 2:0. This win gave Coach Raymond Watson his third title in four years. Notably, no goals were score against the Colts Team in the entire competition. The win by the Colts Team was seen by many as a dress rehearsal to the Manning Cup finals.

St. Georges drew the first blood and though KC got many chances to get on the score sheet, this did not materialize. The teams went into the half-time break with St. Georges leading 1:0 and oozing with confidence. The body language of the KC Team on resumption of the second half was that they were going to fight to the very end. Soon KC levied the scores and the stadium erupted with shouts of Fortis Cadere Cedere Non Potest!

Like a roller coaster ride, St. Georges was back in front with a 2:1 lead. The clock was ticking very fast and the St. Georges supporters started celebrating. In the closing moments of the game Coach Ludlow Bernard wanted to pull Nathan “Kante” Thomas but he begged Coach not take him off and the Coach relented. From his interview, Coach Bernard also noted that with 6 minutes to the end of regulation time, he started preparing for penalty shoot-out as no extra time was allotted if there was tie after regulation time. But, Captain Priestly assured him that the team had this one.

St. Georges’ fortunes were overturned with an equalizer close to the end of regulation time and it was pandemonium in the National Stadium. Every doubting Thomas now became fortune tellers calling it for KC.

Though the fat lady was tuning up her voice, the KC team knew it was not over until the signing started. The eleven players played as though their life lives depended on the win and the supporters in the National Stadium cheered unrelentingly. It paid dividends, as around the 90th minute, the very same Nathan Thomas who Coach Bernard was about to substitute found the back of the net making it 3:2.

The entire stadium erupted, the Georges fans were silenced and some started to exit the stadium. Many KC supporters cried tears of joys. The drought was broken and it was Jubilation in the packed grandstand and the bleachers across from the grandstand.

The game was over! Kingston College was the 3:2 winner and lifted the Manning Cup after not winning the competition for 32 years.

KC finished Manning Cup 2018 scoring a total of 69 goals with only 7 against.

According to Coach Bernard “This was the first goal Thomas was scoring in the Manning Cup and possibly throughout his football Career.”

In reflecting, Coach Bernard said he was proud to be the steward of this particular journey. He outlined that it was a tough journey. “In year 1, we had to re-establish the programme, in Year 2, the team won the Walker Cup – first time in 16 years and in Year 3 the Super Cup. As a result, the anticipation grew”. Coach also mentioned that the scenes in the changing room after the 2017 loss in the semi-finals, provided the motivation for what transpired in 2018.

Coach Bernard proudly said this bunch of KC players were the best in a very long time. While he lauded the players, no praises were too great for his coaches and supporting staff, the management team and the Principal who despite all the negativity believed in the programme and supported fully.

I spoke with one of Jamaica’s greatest footballers of yesteryear – Neville Oxford - who played on the 1964 and 1965 KC Manning Cup Teams. Neville and Churchill Neita kept close to the team – as they have done for many years – doing motivational talks and giving the youngsters that historical perspective of winning at KC. Oxford had all confidence in the team going in the finals but “the confidence and fighting spirit displayed in the 2 nd half boosted his confidence even further”.

Kwaceydon Baxter – known to most as Yaro Fortis General – one of the Assistant Coaches in the junior programme and someone who stayed closely with the Manning Cup teams over the years believed that “this team was more rounded that last year’s” - Using goal scorers as his yardstick. According to Yaro, “Last year the top scorer had 24 goals while this year the top scorer had 11 goals. It was a total team effort and the team was more humble but with a stronger appetite for winning”. He had high praises for leadership skills displayed by Captain Priestly throughout the competition.

Calton “Spanner”Dennis well-known Santos Football Club Administrator; who we can rightly assigned the title of ”Honorary KC Old Boy” has been a fixture in the football program for many years. Dennis said he had all confidence that this team would have gone all the way to claim the Manning Cup Title. Dennis was in the midst of St. Georges fans in the stands and though they were beaming with pride and though KC was behind up to the 87 th minute, his confidence was not shaken. Initially he told the St. Georges fans that KC would win by a 2:1 margin. When Georges scored the second goal, he revised his projection to 3:2 and so was it in extra time.

Maurice Borrows – Florida OBA – who played on the winning KC 1981 Manning Cup Team - expected KC to win. But when Georges missed a clear target on goal in the dying moments, he started celebrating as “he knew the tide would turn; destiny was on our side”

Dr. Patrick Dallas – former president of the KCOBA Jamaica - stayed closely to the Team throughout the competition. Dallas had sent out a communiqué imploring the Fortis Fraternity to come out in their numbers as the support from the stands was a critical component of KC breaking the 32-year drought. “The boys needed to see the supporters in the stands” he explained. The fans did not disappoint and the support could be best described as overwhelming. He stayed in the dressing room with the boys and they were beaming with confidence. He also believed that the outpouring of support made a huge difference and this 3:2 victory over St. Georges on November 30 epitomized that the KC spirit is still alive.

Dallas reflected on the 6 minutes before the end of play. Coach Bernard started thinking about penalty shoot-out. Captain Priestly was categorical in his response “No Coach, we have this one” The team came prepared to play and win and they were not going to surrender. When Ari Rodgers had to be taken off due to injury, the boys dug deeper – as though they were doubling up for their fallen champ. Another incident that was a good signal to Dr. Dallas was when our prolific goal scorer, Ari, missed what was thought to be a clear goal. Ari appeared deflated and Captain Priestly ran towards him motivating him. The team was together and they came determined to win.

I also spoke with the player who turned the tide when gave the entire Fortis Nation that winning goal – #4 Nathan Thomas aka Kante. Kante epitomises the Fortis Spirit of not yielding. He said he had all confidence going into the game. “I do not like to give up” he assured. He reflected on how Coach Bernard had intended to substitute him in the 87th minute and how he begged Coach Bernard “Please don’t take me off, I want to finish off the game – I want to win the game” He was happy Coach Bernard reneged on his decision. And, the entire Fortis Nation is overjoyed that Coach Bernard listened to Kante.

The history books have been rewritten - KC is Manning Cup Champions for 2018!

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