San Juan North Secondary advanced to the East Zone Coca-Cola Intercol final on Tuesday from the penalty spot, 7-6, over Championship Division campaigners Arima North at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, Arima.
They will now meet Trinity College East, another Premier Division team that prevailed over St Augustine 3-0 in the earlier match of a doubleheader. The Arouca lads got goals from Khaleem Prince, Jeremiah Frank-Williams and Jaheim Faustin to clear the way for a showdown for the title against San Juan North next Wednesday at the same venue from 3.30 pm.
In Tobago, Signal Hill upset Speyside High 2-1 to set up a final contest with Mason Hall, which defeated Bishops High School.
Arima North, unbeaten throughout their campaign to date, was hoping for an upset against one of the giants of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), and under coach Lyndon Andrews, they made a brave start with an attempt to play open football.
However, San Juan flexed its muscles with the opener in the 12th minute, courtesy of a quickly taken free-kick in the centre of the Arima half. Skilful San Juan midfielder Lindell Sween caught Arima goalie Isaiah Diaz napping with a thunderous drive from some 25 yards out that bounced awkwardly in front of him before flying into the back of the net.
The goal appeared to have been the start of early San Juan's dominance, despite Arima's battling effort. Still, with Arima midfielder Jemaul Ashing attempting to spur his team on, Sween nearly pushed his team further ahead from another long-range shot that cannoned off the crossbar before bouncing to safety in the 28th minute.
Larry Noel, the scorer of more than a dozen of the San Juan North's goals this season, was kept at bay for most of the half until Sween released him into the Arima danger area but he could not find his goal-scoring touch, firing the ball just wide of the opened goal in the 39th minute.
The teams went to the half-time interval with Premier Division powerhouse San Juan leading by a solitary item and upon the resumption, Arima North received renewed energy that led to the equaliser in the 55th minute.
Ashing in the centre of the park, picked out Malachi Noreiga on the right side, who then delivered perfectly for the unmarked Ricardo Jones to turn the ball into the net for a 1-1 scoreline.
San Juan, appearing to have lost the sting which saw them qualify for the semifinal of the Tiger Tanks Premier Division play-off last month, restored their advantage courtesy of a build-up between Sween and Kedell Jones, that eventually landed at the feet of an unmarked Noel in the Arima area. But this time, Noel took his time and placed the ball beyond the advancing Diaz into the Arima goal for a 2-1 margin in the 71st minute.
However, it did not spell the end for the "Dial Dynamos", as the Arima team is called. A through-ball aimed Ashing, was cleared by defender Joshua Lewis, but only as far as substitute Devin Seales, who composed himself and slotted the ball into an empty net in the 77th minute for a 2-2 tie.
The match was then settled from the penalty spot where both teams were tied at 5-5 after the first five kicks, before Arima's Nicholas Torres scuffed his shot in sudden-death, to enable Kent Guy to score the winner.
In the sister isle, meanwhile, Signal Hill and Mason Hall will contest the final after respective victories. Premier Division contender Speyside was edged 2-1 by Signal Hill, while Mason Hall and Bishop's High got double strikes from Rickeldi Williams and Aaron James, respectively, in a 2-2 tie before Mason Hall prevailed 4-3 from the penalty spots.
In the South Zone on Wednesday, Tiger Tanks Premier Division champion St Benedict's College will go after their second title this afternoon when they take on Moruga in the first match of a doubleheader at 1.30 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva. In the other match from 3.30 pm, Presentation College, San Fernando, Tiger Tanks Cup winner at the beginning of the season, will come up against Naparima College.
Trinity College East 3 (Khaleem Prince 22nd, Jeremiah Frank-Williams 39th, Jaheim Faustin 69th) vs St Augustine 0
San Juan North 2 (Lindell Sween 12th, Larry Noel 71st) vs Arima North (Ricardo Jones 55th, Devin Seales 77th). San Juan won 7-6 on penalties.
Signal Hill Sec 2 (D'Reem Taylor, Khyllon Des Vignes) vs Speyside High 1 (Jaheim Trimm 25th)
Bishop's High 2 (Aaron James 2) vs Mason Hall Sec 2 (Rickeldi Williams 2). Mason Hall won 4-3 on penalties.