Rookies shine in flag football premier league

Rookie Steve Mitzel shined for Maples. (Photos courtesy CIFFA)

Rookie player stole the show in a memorable showdown between Kensington Hellcats and Maples in week six of the 2017 Cayman Islands Flag Football Association Premier League at the Annex.

Normally led by David Taylor in the quarterback position, Maples had veteran QB Chris Lebeau under centre. Despite being absent for a while, Lebeau would show that he hasn’t lost his touch in finding players across the field. In a match-up of the third and fourth-ranked teams, this became a game to watch very quickly.

Maples didn’t waste any time taking charge, scored first when Lebeau pitched the ball to David Taylor, who found rookie player Steven Mitzel in the end zone. Mitzel first came to the sport through the annual CoEd League, where he played with the Deloitte team.

“I feel this is a key aspect for us to continue to maintain. Seeing that we have different leagues happening throughout the year, it’s a direct opportunity for us to make sure we are also reaching potential new players through them,” said CIFFA President Adrean Russell.

“Steven has been able to transition well given his natural athletic talent and become a key member of his team. The league’s continued growth is one of our main goals, so I’m always thrilled to see new faces to the sport,” Russell added.

The Hellcats wasted no time trying to answer, but the defense of Maples players like Brian Bodden and Jonathan Allen did not make it easy. Hellcats quarterback William Peguero Jr. led the charge as he’s done for the season so far, and despite being plagued with a number of dropped passes he kept his composure. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that Hellcats rookie Abdul Patterson would step up with an amazing run, giving his team the field position they desperately needed.

In addition to being a rookie, Patterson is also one of the youngest members on his team, at 20 years of age, and an avid rugby player.

“It’s been great to see the way that he’s adapted and fitted into our roster. He’s smart, quick to learn and always willing to listen to ways to improve. I’ve enjoyed seeing him on the field and I’m really excited to see what he continues to do as the season goes on,” said team rep Nate Narcisse.

Piggybacking on the great field position, Peguero found rookie Austin Jones in the end zone to tie game.  Jones first came to the sport on island through the CIFFA annual CoEd league as well, where he was the captain of the Seafire team. Regardless of being the quarterback in CoEd, he has adapted to the role as a receiver well, and has found his way that he can contribute to his team.

Austin Jones scored for the Hellcats

“Despite being a rookie, Austin’s performance has been ‘veteran-like’. He continues to show commitment to practice and games, and when it’s needed most he’s there picking up players and keeping them mentally in the game. His leadership has definitely played a role is us winning the games that we’ve won so far,” said Peguero, the Hellcats captain.

Following Jones’ touchdown, a completed extra point kick from Nick Bush would give the Hellcats what they needed to edge out the victory, securing a 7-6 victory.

On the women’s side of the ball the Subway Lady Predators faced off against the Red Stripe Wolverines. Determined to achieve their first win, the Lady Predators were playing with an extra level of momentum and were determined to set the tone. And they wouldn’t wait long to do that, as on the first play of the game Kim David would run the ball from her own 20-yard line to score the only touchdown for her team. This instantly triggered the force of the Wolverines, and the Lady Predators knew if they wanted the win, it wouldn’t be easy.

The game continued to exhibit the defensive force from both sides, as players such as Shanice Bodden and Nekita Saintvil from the Wolverines and Shekira Davis from the Lady Predators, made some key tackles on the line of scrimmage.  Led by quarterback Kalie Broderick, who is one of our youth league players that have transitioned over, the Wolverines would do their part to fight to score.

“It’s been great seeing the way that Kalie has fit into our team. She’s young, energetic, quick and can really play any position. She listens well and she always wants to know how she can do better,” said coach Phil Brown.

Racheal Van Beek, rookie safety for the Lady Predators, would be the threat to Broderick, as she would intercept two of her throws out of the air. Despite having their opportunities, the Wolverines would be unable to score, allow the Lady Predators to clinch their first victory with a score of 6-0.

Kim David scored for the Lady Predators

The Maples Jaguars would match up against the Greenhouse Lynx for the second time this season. When the teams first met, the game ended in a 6-0 victory for the Lynx. Walking away proud having held the league’s reigning runner up to a close game, the Jaguars knew what they had to work on and were determined to do so. Being the new team in the league, there has been a lot of eyes on the Jaguars to see how they were going to do. And in many instances, they have lived up to a lot of expectations. In the past, most new teams come in and struggle to stay in games merely due to the lack of chemistry a new group has, but these ladies have showed that through practice and hard work, they are here to play.

Erica Bosch, quarterback for the Lynx continued to show that she is handling her new challenge well as the leader of the pack. “It’s definitely been challenging, but I’m always open to one. My teammates have definitely helped make it easier for me. There’s a lot of the season left, and I’m happy with how our team is playing.”, say Bosch.

She could be seen running the ball every chance she had, behind the protection of her lineman Bernadette Beckles and Yasmin James. Answering back would be Anna Coulson of Maples, who would show that she too could run, with her lineman Kara Rankine and Sarafina McField lining the path. For the Lynx, Bernadette Beckles and Latoya Cover would do their part to add two touchdowns, with Yasmin James and Cover converting the extra points. Maples, determined to not be shut out would answer back, as Kayla Robinson would add a touchdown for her team, with Nikki Ebanks executing the extra point. Ending in a 14-7 victory for the Lynx, the Jaguars held their head high as not only did they compete and score, but their defense was able to keep the game close.

“We’re getting better as a unit, and that’s exactly what I want our ladies to do,” said coach Rohan Marshall.

The Island Heritage Predators faced off against the Maples Knights as the lights shown down on the field. Even though the Knights have been faced with the challenge of recruiting players, they have managed to stay in games. Going up against the reigning league champions, the Knights didn’t back down from the fight and their defense would do their part in keeping the game close.

Holding the Predators to only one touchdown by Kaleb Ebanks, the Knights would still see the game as a game in reach for them. Led by quarterback Tyler Lee, the Knights would chip down the field when needed, and additionally do their part to allow Lee to run the ball effectively.

Team Captain Kevin Solomon kept his team fired up throughout the game to ensure his men continued to push. Eventually the fight would pay off, as Lee would run the ball into the end zone to secure a Knights’ touchdown. Having the complete audience behind them, cheers erupted from the stands. Easily scripted as the underdog of the game, the Knights continued to show why they shouldn’t be ignored. Unable to complete the extra point, the game would result in a 7-6 victory for the Predators.

Kaleb Ebanks

“Despite not pulling off the win, I’m proud of how our team played. We know the mistakes we made and we can get better. However, those guys are league champions and we loss by a point. If nothing else does, that says something,” said quarterback Tyler Lee.

The only game to see overtime on Saturday would be the matchup between the HSM Vipers and the Tribe Tattoo Lady Sharks. Currently undefeated, the Vipers wanted to do one thing, win. Equally, the Lady Sharks had their eye on a victory, with the goal of not only moving up in the standings, but also snapping the winning streak that the Vipers currently hold.

Courtisha Ebanks, quarterback for the Lady Sharks wasted no time is displaying her athleticism. She could be seen running the ball for keys yards, or completing quick passes to her receivers. Answering back would be running back Jennifer Choice for the Vipers, along with the completions from their quarterback Lisa Malice. One of those passes would pay off for Ebanks, as after a missed tackle from the Vipers, Scimone Campbell would have a clear run into the end zone.

Schmarrah McCarthy would later show why she shouldn’t be ignored on the offensive line, as she would leak out and complete a catch for a Vipers touchdown. In overtime, the Lady Sharks would have the first chance to score, and knew that if they were going to pull off the win, their team would need to come through now. Unable to convert, the Lady Sharks now had the challenge of holding off the Vipers. Choice would come through from her team, and she would use her speed to skate pass defenders and run into the corner of the end zone.

“These are the games you want to play. I commend the Sharks for coming out and playing hard and keeping the game close. We definitely made a lot of costly mistakes this game. Being our first close game of the season, it’s definitely a wakeup call to our team that we can’t ignore teams. Teams are getting better, and we have to do our part as well,” said Choice.

Week 7 of the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association’s Premier League season continues on 12 August at the Ed Bush Sports Complex in West Bay.

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