After struggling in its earlier matches, the University of San Carlos (USC) finally showed its true form and outlasted a gutsy University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) to win the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. football title for a record fifth time at the Cebu City Sports Center last Dec. 11, 2022.
The Warriors’ fifth straight is their eighth overall after victories in 2006, 2011, and 2014. USJ-R, back in the finals after missing out in the last three editions, still leads the league with nine titles and is still the only team to have scored a four-peat (2001-2004), a three-peat (2007-2009), and a double (2012 and 2013).
However, the Warriors of rookie college coach Jinggoy Roa set a record of their own with No. 5, a title that seemed unlikely when the defending champion wobbled to a draw 1-1 in their first game against the Jaguars and was beaten, 2-1, in the second.
“Our campaign this season was up and down. We had to adjust our tactics in the middle of the seasoj to address our weaknesses and maximize our strengths,” said Roa, who took over from coach Allan Medalla.
Roa and the Warriors won their season debut but stumbled in their next four games, earning only two points. A picture of frustration in their first match against USJ-R which they led, Roa admitted there were times he questioned his capacity to lead the team.
“I am very lucky that I have a very competent and professional coaching staff who really helped me in getting the team to success,” said Roa, who is assisted in the bench by Roseton Bariñan and Dino Musni.
Roa also thanked his rookie-laden team, which only had five holdovers from the 2019 squad.
“More than 75 percent of the team are rookies but these are the best among the more than a 100 who tried out for the team. All in all, it was a learning experience,” he said.
And it was an experienced learnt well for Christian Vierh Agot, whose 75th minute strike was enough to earn him man-of-the-match honors. Teammate Jascha Mari Tabar got the MVP for his season-long brilliance, while Areli Acuin was named the top scorer. Johyn Rhyll Eldian was named the best keeper, and Ludwig Ryan Badayos got the best midfielder award. USJ-R’s Jay Opsima prevented a Warriors sweep after bagging the best defender trophy.
Our players also had to do a lot of sacrifices. It was a learning experience for all of us and the whole team trusted the process.USC coach Jinggoy Roa
Meanwhile, tournament director Francis Ramirez credits the tournament format for an exciting season. Since he assumed as TM, Ramirez has opted for a double round-robin format for college, with the team that sweeps all its games getting the title outright. The format was adapted in high school for the first time, giving DBTC a chance to be the first to win the title via sweep.
“The incentive of winning the title via sweep encourages each team to treat every game as a championship game,” said Ramirez.