De La Salle Zobel booked a place in the final of the UAAP Season 85 High School Football Tournament with a resounding 3-0 win over archrival Ateneo de Manila University, Saturday at UP Diliman Football Field.
This is the first time the Junior Archers will compete for the gold medal since Season 80. During that final, the Alabang-based team lost to 10-time defending champions Far Eastern University-Diliman 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the game ended 1-1 during regulation.
La Salle hopes to defeat FEU-D and reclaim the crown it last won back in Season 70, when the event was still a demonstration sport in the UAAP. Both schools will face off for all the marbles on March 2, 2023.
“We just have to prepare for FEU,” said coach Hans-Peter Smit. “We know the strength of FEU. We also know the weakness of FEU. We gave chances to the other players who haven’t really gotten to play this season.
“It’s a good showing just to show you that anyone in our team can play. Hopefully, we can do something more against FEU. Regardless of the outcome, we’re going to the finals so that’s what we have to prepare for,” the veteran head coach continued.
The Junior Archers broke the floodgates thanks to Umi Abelarde’s strike 18 minutes into the game. However, their failure to finish off their other opportunities opened the door for the Blue Eagles to mount a comeback after the halftime break.
Come the second half, though, La Salle captain Jian Caraig doubled his side’s cushion with a fine finish. It was the PFF U19 Boys National Championship winner’s fifth goal this season in just five matches played. Rafael Ganzon then put the icing on the cake for La Salle in the 88th minute of the match with a goal from close range.
“They needed more urgency, more intensity. We had all the chances in the first half but we didn’t score more. We have a tendency to relax. That’s the problem we have to work on,” added Smit. “So hopefully against FEU, they feel the urgency and react to it.”
The second game of the day saw FEU-D enjoy a routine 2-0 victory against University of Santo Tomas.
While this game was officially a non-bearing contest for both sides after La Salle’s win earlier in the day, UST put up a competitive fight but the defending champions were just too much for them.
“Actually, we played a good first 20, 25 minutes in the first half but after the 25th, 30th minute, I think we got a little complacent,” said FEU coach Vince Santos after his side’s fifth straight win this season.
“Some players were dribbling more than playing simple. We had to get back to that in the second half and I think we were able to get the second goal,” he continued.
The Baby Tamaraws drew first blood thanks to Bryan Villanueva’s 17th-minute strike. They then saw their lead double when a fine buildup play led to substitute Ronmer Paciente’s neat assist, which was tapped home by Francois Napiza in the 58th minute.
Both FEU and La Salle will go up against each other on the final elimination round matchday in what is a preview of this season’s finals. Similar to the Junior Archers, the Baby Tamaraws will be eager to maintain their momentum before the finals.
“It’s important that we keep our habits,” added Santos. “Even if it’s a non-bearing game, we want to play the way we should play. Hopefully, even if we use some of the reserves, we can still get the result.”