Hopwood Junior High School clinched the boys division championship in the 2016-2017 NMIFA U14 Interscholastic Football League after nosing out Tanapag Middle School, 2-1, in last Monday’s finale at the Hilitai’s home turf.
Taka Borja scored the winning goal eight minutes before the one-hour title match wrapped up. Brian Lubao nailed the other goal for Hopwood in the 25th minute. Tanapag drew its lone goal from Razeff Altamirano in the 20th minute.
With the close victory in the finals, Hopwood finished the season undefeated. The Connie Camacho-coached team swept the round-robin elimination, winning all its five games and scoring 32 goals, while giving up only four. The eventual champions made the most goals in the season and also allowed the least.
Tanapag had the second most goals (28) and placed second after the elimination with its 3-1-1 win-draw-loss mark, beating Mt. Carmel School in the tiebreak for the No. 2 spot. The Knights fell to No. 3 after tallying only 20 goals in five games and giving up six.
Francisco Mendiola Sablan Middle School was ranked fourth and got the last playoff berth as it earned a 2-0-3 slate in the elimination round. FMS totaled 15 goals and yielded 13. Whispering Palms/Saipan Community School and Chacha Oceanview Middle School missed the playoffs as they ended up with 1-0-3, and 0-0-5 slates, respectively.
In the playoff round, top-ranked Hopwood was paired against FMS and cruised to a 4-1 victory last Feb. 16 to gain the first finals berth. Ian Karl Maniago, Rohan Basnet, Oliver Fajardo, and Sebastien Manabat scored one goal apiece for Hopwood, while Floyd Muna drilled the solitary goal for FSM.
In the other semis pairing, Tanapag shut down the MCS Knights, 2-0, to set up the championship duel between the Top 2 finishers in the elimination. Mikel Johnson and Lolobeyong Benito scored for Tanapag in the 29th and 47th minute, respectively.
With the loss, Mt. Carmel was relegated to the battle for third place, which FMS won via penalty shootout, 2-0. The consolation match ended at 1-1 in regulation and was still tied after overtime. Merrick Toves registered the lone goal for MCS, while Romel Muna did the same for FSM. The two scorers for FMS in the penalty shootout were not indicated in the official match report.
Meanwhile, besides recognizing the Top 4 finishers in the league, the organizing Northern Mariana Islands Football Association also handed out two individual awards in the division.
Tapanag’s Benito won the Golden Boot award, while Hopwood’s Jason Quimzon took the Golden Glove plum. Benito collected 11 goals, 10 games in the elimination round, while Quimzon gave up only four goals in the preliminary matches and one in the playoffs.