Trinidad and Yavapai

Jon Flick
Date Published: 
Daily Courier

Connection has helped put Roughriders on the soccer map

The Trinidad DuoThe Trinidad Duo: of Kevin Jeffrey, left, and Kelvin Jack has helped the Roughriders to an unbeaten season in 1997. But both have their sights set on a trip to New Jersey next month. Jeffrey became the school's all-time goal scorer Saturday night.

At first glance, they appear as different as a rocker and a redneck. Kelvin Jack is close cropped and the strong, silent type.

Kevin Jeffrey looks too cool for school. His wraparound shades and dreadlocks portray an aura of looseness.

But, "Yah, man," make no mistake about it, these two are akin on a mission. The "Trinidad Twosome's" every moment, every thought, is to bring the national Junior College Athletic Association championship to Prescott, Ariz.

In fact, Yavapai College forward Jeffrey went on record before the season even started, stating that Yavapai will bring back the hardware.

"You can quote me on this," says Jeffrey, as his constant smile soured into an intense glare.

"Every day, day by day, I picture myself coming back from Nationals and I'm climbing off the bus and I say to the people of Prescott, 'We are the national champions.' Every game I play, I imagine I am playing the championship game. Every time I get off the bus, I am focused for the title."

Says freshman goalie Jack: "If we don't win the title, the season will be a waste."

Familiar Strangers

It's not necessarily a stretch to say Yavapai will win all the marbles.

Last year, they came a corner kick away from winning it all. Mercer College from Trenton, N.J. edges them, 1-0.

Jeffrey was a freshman then, battling Shawn Glasser, the captain of the Trinidad national that both Jeffrey and Jack had played on.

"We were going at it physically and mentally," said Jeffrey, of the teammates who came a game away from qualifying for the second round of World Cup competition.

"We served in the military together in Trinidad, but had never played against each other before."

Currently, Mercer is ranked No. 1 in the nation, while Yavapai is No. 2

"They should be number one. Until we beat them," said Jack.

The Trinidad connection

Yavapai coach Mike Pantalione has a dynasty going on.

Pantalione, a Philadelphia boy who played goalie and attended the University of Montana, has constructed a phenomenal record of 187-10-7 at Yavapai. The team has won two national championships (1990, 92) and finished second four times and came in fourth once. His teams have outscored opponents 752-112.

And he has done it with the help of a Trinidad connection.

It all started when Pantalione gave a call to his favorite player as a boy, Lincoln Phillips.

"I was scrambling around to find a quality goalkeeper. Someone to help us maintain our national championship (1990)," said Pantalione.

Phillips, one of the premier authorities and coaches of goalies, joshed that "now I feel old," but knew of Yavapai's tradition and said he'd get back with Pantalione.

Good to his word, he found a goalie by the name of Chris Sagar in Trinidad, and Sagar became the first of four players from the country to play at YC.

"I told Phillips I didn't want the whole island, just someone special. Someone who wants to pursue a bachelor's degree and is a good citizen and obviously can play soccer," said Pantalione.

Sagar turned out to be just that, and a pretty good goalkeeper too, as he led the team to a national runner-up and a title in his two-year stay.

He was 43-2-1 while in the net.

In fact, he was the best goalkeeper in the nation at any collegiate level. He received the Adidas National Goalkeeper Award.

From there, the word spread. Hey, a good thing is hard to hide.

Sagar turned defender and two-year MVP Avery John on to the school, an eventual two-year MVP.

John then told Jeffrey, who in turn told Jack.

"Soccer is only a small part of college. Culture and geographical diversity is important. When you sprinkle in guys like Jeffrey and Jack and Matt Kirkpatrick from England, it's a learning experience for everybody. Culture and geography are important. those three teach many of the Arizona area players about work ethics. But if we had a team of 22 guys from Trinidad, in my opinion we wouldn't win it. You need diversity," said Pantalione.

Learning the culture

It's been a learning experience for Jeffrey and Jack, but not on the field where both are excelling.

Jeffrey just broke the program's all-time scoring record Wednesday, when his two goals and an assist gave him 62 points. Jeffrey had a chance to break the all-time goal scoring record Saturday night (see adjoining story), when he entered the game two goals back of Edson Rico's 26. It was Rico's total points record that Jeffrey broke last week.

"I'm a team player. Without the guys that get me the ball, I wouldn't have a record. But the important thing is the championship," said Jeffrey.

Jack needed to shut out Scottsdale Saturday to climb within a game of tying the season program shutout record of 14 held by Sagar. Jack has yet to give up more than two goals in a game.

"It's all bout the team," said Jack.

"I have not though about the record."

So, soccer has been a breeze, but what about Arizona? What about being away from home?

After all, when Pantalione brought his team to Sacred Heart School, the students were asked where Trinidad was.

"By Hawaii?" chirped one. "What about Australia?" asked another.

"It took me awhile to adjust for I had never been away from home that long. It's very different here but a lot of people went out of their way to help me here. The many people that come to our games really get our adrenaline going," says Jeffrey.

"If it wasn't for Kevin being here already, it would have been very hard," said Jack.

Both of them miss the long stretches of white beaches, which their hometown of Trincity was located just 90 minutes from.

They were taught under the British system, so they measure in metrics and spelling is different, which can be a problem for an aspiring journalist like Jeffrey. For example, center is spelled "centre" in English.

Jeffrey was cruising with a friend by the name of Stephanie the other day and decided he wanted a Jack in the Box burger.

They pulled up to the drive-in but when he ordered, Jack squawked back, "Excuse me, I do not understand your language. Please use English."

Parties differ out here too. No house parties.

"When someone out here says 'There is a party,' I say, 'No, there is a gathering. People talk and converse here. We have a house party. Everybody gets in the middle of the room and dances," said Jeffrey.

Jeffrey, who usually 'be jammin' to reggae artists Bennie Mon, Bufu Banton and Capelton, now spins a little Sublime and Oasis thanks to his AZ pals.

The twosome both wanted to thank their parents, (Linda, Jerome and Patricia) along with their 'special ladies' and Matt Kirkpatrick and Ty Engram along with coach for helping them.

If you haven't seen the twosome play, this Saturday night Yavapai hosts the regional playoffs.

It'll be easy to spot Jeffrey, he's the one that has the disarming grin on his face, adhering to the "pleasing personality" tidbit he got out of a Michael Jordan book.

Jack will be the stalwart in the net, the last line of defense.

And unless it snows in Hades, Prescott will win.

Responding to the lone blemish on their year, a tie with San Diego Mesa, Coach Pantalione harkened back to a 1969 football game where Yale was trailing Harvard by several touchdowns. Harvard blew the lead and Yale tied the ballgame.

"The next day the paper ran a headline that said, 'Harvard loses to Yale, 29-29. That's how we feel here when we tie. If a player pulls a bad move, I'll tell him you can get away with that against Arizona Western but not East of the Mississippi," said Pantalione.

The ultimate 'getaway'

Kevin Jeffrey and Kelvin Jack would like to "get away" from New Jersey with a championship trophy.

"I'd like to give coach and the community the pride and joy that comes with a championship," said Jeffrey.

"The same pride they had in 1992."

Way back when a Trinidad player by the name of Chris Sagar crossed the water and started it all.