When University of the Philippines opened the men’s football tournament of UAAP Season 80, they did so by handing defending champions Ateneo de Manila their first and so far only un-avenged loss of the season.
Third-year forward JB Borlongan was the difference-maker as he scored late to give UP the opening day win.
As it turns out, that first match would be an indication of how Borlongan’s season would be going, as the Cagayan de Oro native has been having a breakout year in terms of offense, and the league-leading Fighting Maroons are enjoying every bit of it.
While Borlongan has already been showing flashes of his goal scoring capabilities his first two seasons in the UAAP, he’s taken it to another level this year. With a team-high nine goals in nine matches, Borlongan is the league’s second-best striker, and with UP already clinching a seat in the Final Four, it’s highly likely that he isn’t done scoring.
Along with fellow third-year striker King Miyagi, who’s netted eight goals of his own this season, Borlongan is on the forefront of UP’s attack, and the significant jump in terms of scoring output was the product of the need to step up, especially with the departure of key players, including former skipper Daniel Gadia.
“Coach told King and I na since sila Gadia aren’t here anymore on the team, it should be us stepping up already, since we’re the seniors on the attacking line.” Borlongan told ABS-CBN Sports. “So that’s what we did, in training we made sure that we worked on our finshing drills so that we’ll be able to convert our goals.”
With even more veterans set to call it a UAAP career at season’s end, Borlongan knows that it’s up to them to take the reins and make sure that UP remains competitive in the coming seasons.
“That’s also what we’re trying to do, because after this season, next season, sila Ian Clarino, our captain, wala na. It’s gonna be our batch na, King’s batch and my batch that’s gonna lead the team.”
So far, so good.
“I think it’s a good sign naman, we’ve been scoring goals naman diba, so next season we hope we can do the same.” Borlongan added.
His coach Anto Gonzales hopes so too.
“I think with JB, he’s more focused this season, and he’s been working very hard. During our first four games, he was our best performer, medyo nag-dip after that, but he came back very strongly in the last two games. I hope he continues playing that way.”
Ten matches into the season, the Fighting Maroons own the best record in the league at eight wins and two draws. They’re also the only team in the league that hasn’t suffered a loss.
When asked what’s fueling this impressive Maroons run, Borlongan shares that it’s the same thing that helped fuel them to men’s and women’s titles two seasons ago.
“Our fight. Every game, we make sure we really wanna win, and we wanna do it for Rogie and the UP community.”
In 2016, Rogie Maglinas, a member of the UP men’s football team, passed away after a battle against a rare form of cancer.
Maglinas’ passing became the emotional spark that helped UP claim men’s and women’s football titles back in UAAP Season 78.
Two years later, UP hopes to once again find themselves at the top of the UAAP men’s football mountain, and Borlongan is helping lead the fight.