By Walter Reich
Cedar Sees Two Teams Crowned Champions in U9 and U12 divisions of the BDO After School Primary League.
The past two weeks of football at Cedar have been frenetic in every sense of the word and have seen much success.
The BDO afterschool football league for U7s, U9s and U12s came to an end for this current campaign that started what seemed like an eternity ago in October 2023. Cedar’s U7 team, led from the front by a group of tenacious 5 year olds, only got better as the season progressed notching many deserved wins to go with early draws. Unfortunately the math said they were not a playoff team but their future is certainly bright with many of the budding superstars set to be eligible for the U7s for the next couple of years. While all 10 players were incredible, notable standouts for the team during the season included veterans Yasmina Kayed and Harry Crumpler and 5 year old rookies Toby Freeman, Noah Farmer, Sebby and Sofia Cross who all regularly attend the Saturday morning Manatees training session. Rounding out the team with valuable contributions in their own right were Zackary Chivilo, Jeyana Kayed, Melissa Eason and Molly Matthews. The young team was coached by Coach Simon Cross with help from Coach Walter.
In the U9s and U12s the story involves multiple trophies. In both leagues, Cedar had decided to enter 2 equally balanced teams. Cedar Atheletic’s Director and UEFA A Certified Coach John Reilly summarized the decision this way – “Our philosophy remains steadfast in trying to get as many kids to enjoy the beautiful game as possible. Through that enjoyment we try to teach the finer technical aspects of the game. Each year when we have enough kids to play more than one team in an age group we debate as coaches the best way forward. This year in particular, we felt that we had enough veteran players on all the 4 teams to create an environment where, rather than setting up an A and B team, we felt that all the kids could learn more by having equally balanced teams. Put a different way, what benefit would an allstar cast of players on an A team get by winning all their games 10-0? What would the result of these games do to the moral of the kids on the schools on the losing end? This means of course that we risk not winning a championship at the end of the league as has occurred in the past from time to time but when the key objective is development and getting as many kids (boys and girls) interested in the game so be it.”
In the U9s, Cedar had both teams make it to the semi finals. A remarkable achievement in its own right. The team coached by volunteer coach Alessandro Palladino and assistant coach Anjali Sukhtankar won their semi final match in a hotly contested match against Ciboney from VG with the final score 1-0 while the team coached by rookie volunteer coach Sekou Pemberton lost in a tightly contested match 2-0 versus St. Georges. The U9s that lost in the semis had to regroup after just 3 days of rest to fight for the 3rd place trophy against Ciboney which the Cedar team would go on to win in dramatic fashion in penalties when regulation time and extra time could not determine a winner. Scoring winning penalties included Evelyn Freeman and Ivey Rose Butler. 7 year old Shwari Pemberton would pick up the player of the match award. All the players were incredible this season remarked head coach Sekou Pemberton. In addition to those already mentioned, Ollie Basson, Arun Bissoondutt, Martha Donaghey, Haven Meyers, Meira Meyers, Hannah Eddy and Jannah Kayed all played key parts in the team’s success. Certainly a memorable season for how tough this young team was and coolness under pressure demonstrated especially in the playoff games.
The U9s coached by Alessandro/Anjali would have a week to think about their St. Georges opponents who they would play to determine the U9 Championship. During the league, this Cedar U9 team had lost to the same St. Georges team but the kids didn’t feel any pressure and were “locked in” during extra sessions arranged by Coach Alessandro. The game was played last Thursday on the East End Pitch and would see a large contingent of Cedar Supporters travelling East to dot the far sideline en masse. The game started as anticipated …..hard tackles mixed in with some sublime passing. Cedar would score first to let the supporters scream in delight. It was Alex Wilson who would notch the important go ahead goal that gave the young Cedar team the belief required to exact revenge on the mid season loss. “Alex Wilson came to win today” remarked one supporter. “While some kids might buckle under pressure, his confidence and determination grew as the game progressed.” Other incredible performances on the day included steadfast defense by Leela Mellor, Arlo Stanton and Livia Vass while Isabella Quezada, Dottie Whitting-Knight and Piper Bailey were incredible in their toughness and the pressure they exerted on the St. Georges defense. Charlie Knock played in goal for the game. “Charlie’s ability to kick the ball long was key in neutralizing the high press strategy employed by St. Georges” remarked Coach Alessandro. “While we prefer to play through the thirds, we had to take the strength of our opponents into consideration when determining our strategy for the one match, take all game especially after we took the 1 goal early lead.” The game would end 1-0 after dogged defending and close calls on both ends of the pitch. Rounding out the Championship Team were Joe Potgieter , Orla Turner and Jemma SunderlandPilch who were instrumental in getting the team to the championship game.
In the U12s, an embarrassment of riches was on display with both U12s winning their semi finals a week earlier against Ciboney (VG) and Enis Adams which meant that Cedar was guaranteed both first and second place trophies for the year. One U12 team was coached by Alessandro Palladino (with assistant coach Sekou Pemberton) and the other team by Coach Nick Hollingsworth (with assistant coach Anjali). The game had actually started a day after the semis had finished with the Cedar Students trash talking the whole week in the run up to the game all while training during afterschool clubs, Manatees Saturday morning training, center of excellence football and finally during Friday Night under the Lights games. “With Coach Alessandro coaching the early U9 game it was impressive to see his U12 team warming up on their own” remarked one supporter. “You can hear the leaders on the U12 team barking out the warm up drills and the whole team absolutely focused on the job in front of them”. It would be that team made up by Charlie Sanders, Sekani Pemberton, Nate Johnston, Maisy Sutherland-Piltch, Okeil Mckennon, Lily Graham, Arthur Goldstein, Liam Miguel, Lily Carey, Harrison Reid and Emily Jackson that would pick up the early lead against the team led by the Hollingsworth brothers (George and Finely), Ryan Lettsome, Devon Mellor, James Basson, Tommy Bovio, Ioan Jones, Gabby Eason, Isla Meyers, Ashton Starkey, Sophia Pade and Evie Stanton. Player of the Match Charlie Sanders would score the early goal and assist on the two goals scored by Liam Miguel and Okeil Mckennon to propel his team to a 3-1 win against the other U12 team. It would be George Hollingsworth that would make the scoreline interesting when he scored a clever goal to make it 2-1 midway through the second half but it would prove to be the only scored by his team. Sekani Pemberton played in goal for the first 2/3rds of the game for the winning team and was subbed out by Arthur Goldstein when the score was 2-0 for Cedar. Sekani acknowledged the supporters who were serenating his name with his signature trade mark oh shucks smile. “His strength, quick reflexes, ability to kick the ball short to his defenders or midfielders with precision but also ability to kick the ball long to neutralize the press was extremely important” remarked coach Alessandro who would secure the double on the evening. Arthur made a few important saves to close out the game while the defenders in front of him including Maisy, Lilly and Emily played brilliantly throughout.
Rounding out the past two weeks of football have been two wins for the Wolues Women’s team in the augural women’s league. The women’s team, made up of mostly Cedar high school students is coached by Coach John Reilly with his assistant coach Alessandro Palladino. A 3-0 victory against Rebels was followed up this weekend with a 6-0 victory over Positive FC. Giada Palladino would pick up the clean sheet in both games. Scorers so far after two games include Immy Allan (3), Zolita Bamford (3), Eva Carey (3). The team’s defense is led by Cedar students Giada in goal, Zolita as central defender, Millie Cottreau, and Aerin Westlake on the left and right. The midfield sees Cedar students Eva Carey in the middle, the Farinha sisters (Amber and Jade), Zoe Patandin and Kya Ridgeway on the wings and finally Immy, Catrin Jones, Charlie Seddon up front. Amongst other team members, Cedar teacher Isabella Rosewitter is also on the team.
Lastly, the U15 league resumed after the Christmas layoff with both U15 teams playing superbly and courageously to pick up points and to continue in the quest to learn the game. “Rather than enter just one team in the U15 league or have an A, B teams means that some games will be tough but Cedar organizers felt that the teams could both compete and more importantly continue to see players develop. They have done just that which bodes well for the future” remarked Coach Reilly. The Open League team (U18) saw the Cedar team receive all 3 points after its opponent (Elmore Stoutt) forfeited its game this past Friday due to not enough players being available. While unfortunate, coaches John, Alessandro and Walter made use of the East End pitch and ran a terrific training session for the Cedar high school kids who attended that was also an additional tryout session for Jamaica.
In the background to all these games has been the continued tryouts for the U18 boys and U18 girls team we hope to send to Jamaica to play in the SoccerFeva IB School Football Tournament to be played early March and hosted by AISK, Jamaica. Cedar Girls won last year’s girls tournament in dramatic fashion scoring an equalizing goal in the last seconds of the Championship Game to send the game into Extra Time. With no goals scored in ET, it came down to penalties which the girls won in perfect fashion. “This year will see the girls attending in a ‘building for next year’s tournament’” remarked Coach John Reilly. “The future is indeed very bright but with 3 of the older star team members all graduating last year we knew we would need to regroup and build a team for the top prize in perhaps a year or two.” “Unfortunately, last year the boys just missed winning their semifinal losing in penalty kicks after regular and extra time could not determine a winner.” Coach Alessandro noted “We have the potential with this group of boys who are trying out but we shall see if the leaders can lead and whether the team can gel all that potential they have to play as a team which is what will be required to win. ”