Garapan Elementary School clinched the championship in the 2018 NEA Spring League after prevailing against Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School in the finals, 4-2, last Saturday at the Koblerville Elementary School Field.
The victory was sort of an upset for Mallards, as they topped GTC, which ruled the preliminary round after posting an 8-2-0 win-draw-loss record. Garapan finished second going into the playoffs with its 8-1-1 mark, while William S. Reyes Elementary School (6-0-4), and Koblerville Elementary School (3-2-5) were ranked third and fourth, respectively, to complete the Final Four cast. San Vicente Elementary School (2-1-7), and Oleai Elementary School (0-0-10) were eliminated.
Garapan went on to advance to the title match after outlasting WSR, 2-1, in the semis game at Pitch B, while over at Pitch A, GTC dominated Koblerville in the other Final Four tiff, 4-1. WSR and Koblerville ended up playing in the consolation game with the Kingfishers winning, 4-2, to join eventual champion Garapan and runner-up GTC in the podium. San Vicente and Oleai also played last Saturday for fifth place with the former recording a 3-1 victory.
Garapan was awarded the trophy for reigning supreme in the spring season, while the organizing Northern Mariana Islands Football Association also recognized the individual top performers from each team, handing them the Elite Player awards.
Gabriel James Capati of Garapan led the awardees, which also include San Vicente’s Jared Borja, Koblerville’s Anthony Austria, WSR’s Rizza Relucio, GTC’s Pia Ngewakl, and Oleai’s Jonathan Wennio.
The NEA League (formerly NEA Cup) is a competition for student-players who are discovered through the National Elite Academy and NMIFA’s grassroots program. NMIFA coaches and staff visit schools in the afternoon and teach and train selected students. Schools then form teams and they play in a series of tournaments to gauge the students’ development since getting into the program.
Garapan’s champion team is made up of (aside from Capati) Jim Jared Bisek, Darren Babauta, Arif Khan, Mark Hapdei, Kenny Laquian, Khristian David, Elvin Saimon, Kristoffer Pascual, Jereme Quimzon, Ashley Claire Sablan Shoemake, and Jasmeng Kaipat.