Panthers, Vipers are flag football champs

The HSM Vipers won their 2nd CIFFA Premier League title.

The 2017 Cayman Islands Flag Football Association (CIFFA) Premier League champions are the HSM Vipers and the Burger King Panthers. Both teams dominated the regular season and their hard work was rewarded last weekend with the coveted league title.

The Burger King Panthers took on the Island Heritage Predators in a highly anticipated game on 23 September at the Ed Bush Sports Complex.

The Predators were dominant in the first quarter of the game, first with a major gain by Ernesto Ebanks, then a touchdown by Baron Solomon. However, once the ball was turned over to the Panthers, they made quick gains and sent a long pass to Taj Haye for a touchdown of their own. Panthers’ John Pump then made an extra point to bring the score to 7-6.

The Predators made strides to regain control of the game with runs by Oliver Parker but Jahmai Dunbar of the Panthers changed the pace of the game with a strong interception. The Panthers then took advantage by making gains towards the goal line, despite strong defense from Predators’ Trevor Coleman and Peter Whittaker. After gains from Andrew Frederick, Jon Pump would make another catch for a touchdown before halftime to bring the score to 6-14.

The Island Heritage Predators made impressive defensive moves, namely with an interception by Avery Ebanks at the start of the first half. Predators’ quarterback Jordan Stubblefield looked for his next opportunity but was sacked by Panthers’ Andre Morgan. Kaleb Ebanks, Oliver Parker and Baron Solomon each made gains for the Predators but the Panthers were able to keep them from scoring and seal their victory.

“This year’s success for the Burger King Panthers was a reflection of players’ versatility and determination. We were initially looking at folding as we didn’t have enough players to field a solid squad,” said coach/player Brendon Malice.

“The fact that we were able to come together, play the way we did, and win the trophy speaks volumes about this team. We are a very cohesive unit of guys who work hard, support and respect each other, and just have fun together. As always, we are grateful to have such a committed sponsor in Burger King and Gary Rutty, who has supported us for many years.”

Malice also coaches the women’s champions the HSM Vipers, who took on The Greenhouse Lynx in the finals for the second straight year.

The Vipers began on offense but an early interception by Lynx’s Latoya Cover changed the direction of the game. However, strong defense by the Vipers stopped the Lynx from making major gains.

The Vipers’ offense was consistent with what it was during the regular season, with the ball advancing through passes to Schmarrah McCarthy and Maggie Ebanks, the team’s offensive strongholds. Alicia Dixon also made offensive progression for the Vipers. Shenel Gall would run the ball into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game, followed by a field goal. Notable defense from the Lynx was present from Denicia Cranston and Marleena Smith.

After halftime, the Lynx came back ready for a second drive with rookie kicker Kristina Seymour at the helm. Vipers’ Shenel Gall was able to catch the ball in the end zone and weave through defense to score another touchdown. Vipers kicker Carlie Dignam then scored another field goal to bring the score to 14-0.

The Lynx took another chance at offense with a series of gains by Kristina Seymour and Marleena Smith. Despite being sacked by Viper Racquel Brown in the series, Lynx quarterback Erica Bosch passed the ball to Christsania Parker to score a touchdown in the team’s favour, followed by a one-point conversion by Denicia Cranston.

While the Vipers made no more gains on offense due to strong defense by Lynx Bernadette Beckles, they went on to score one more time with a defensive touchdown by Jen Choice. The Vipers won the finals 20-7.

“I can’t be more proud to be a part of the HSM Vipers. We had an amazing season and fought hard against the Lynx in the final to come up with the win,” said Vipers captain Lisa Malice. “The Lynx are a respected team with very athletic players and smart coaches. We knew that we would need to elevate our game to secure the win.”

She said the key to the team’s success was because they stuck together as a unit. “Each player knows their role and how they contribute to the team. We had different people stepping up every week to push the team forward. Our coaches Brendon Malice and Andrew Frederick pushed us each week to get the best out of us and kept it fun for us,” the Vipers captain said.

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