Vipers, Predators take flag football titles

HSM Vipers are the 2016 women's champions of the Flow Premier League.

HSM Vipers and Island Heritage Predators were crowned Cayman Islands Flag Football Association Flow Premier League champions after hard-fought matches in the women’s and men’s finals Saturday.

Both games featured stellar defense and solid ground attacks. First up at the Ed Bush Sports Complex was the women’s final featuring HSM Vipers and Maples Lynx.

Neither team was able to gain the upper hand in the first half, which ended 0-0. That set things up for an exciting second half, as any big play had the potential to the championship decider.

Gall created headaches for defenders all game long.

Gall created headaches for defenders all game long.

Continuing their solid run game with Shenel Gall and Jennifer Cotarelo-Choice carrying the ball, Vipers had the Lynx defense on its heels. The strategy paid dividends when Vipers pounded the ball to the 1-yard line before a short pass from Lisa Malice to Stephanie Watler put them on the board first.

Maintaining the small lead, Vipers then extended it with a prolonged drive late in the second, with Alicia Dixon scoring a rushing touchdown with about 10 seconds left on the clock to stretch the lead to 14-0 and all but assured the team of its second championship.

Lynx, however, would score a touchdown on the last play of the game when QB Anya Edun connected with Camille Solomon, who broke free and sprinted to the end zone. They then made a two-point conversion to make the final score 14-8.

“It was a good, hard-fought game and that’s what you want,” said Vipers coach Brendon Malice, whose side was bounced in the semis by the Lynx.

Cotarelo-Choice kept the ball moving.

Cotarelo-Choice kept the ball moving.

“Last year, I felt we let it slip away. We were that close to getting it…I find it ironic. We always end up playing the Lynx in a close game in the final or semifinal. It was a good game. It’s good to get this one,” Malice added.

Captain Maggie Ebanks said the team stuck to their game plan by having Gall and Cotarelo-Choice dominate on the ground.

“We wanted to have ball protection…we said that we wanted to run the ball more than we threw and those are the people that do that best for us. They put the team on their backs, they run and we try to block for them but they find the gaps to get through and they make things happen,” she told reporters afterward.

Up next was the men’s final between Island Heritage Predators and perennial powers Kensington Hellcats.

2016 Men's Champions - Island Heritage Predators with Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden.

2016 Men’s Champions – Island Heritage Predators with Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden.

Predators pounced from the first play from scrimmage, when QB Jordan Stubblefield connected with Cueme Parker downfield. Parker then turned on the jets as he out sprinted the defense to the end zone. An extra point gave Predators a 7-0 lead.

The Hellcats defense was determined not to let the game get away from them with interceptions on consecutive drives. Predators, too, put up a good defensive showing, including Parker starring again with a red zone interception just before the first half closed.

Parker goes up for the INT.

Parker goes up for the INT.

Both teams sought to get their offensive machinery in high gear but neither was able to put together any drives that would impact the score. However, Hellcats were almost certain of equalizing when Baron Solomon made a pick in the end zone to thwart that opportunity.

The Predators QB reflected on the tough match afterwards. “Whenever you’re playing in a championship game and playing against Hellcats, they’re going to give you everything they have and it was a tough game out there,” Stubbefield said.

Asked about his thoughts of his TD to Parker on the first play of the game, Stubbefield revealed it went down all according to their pre-game plan.

Solomon's pick sealed the deal.

Solomon’s pick sealed the deal.

“We actually had that play drawn up for the last couple of days. We’ve started the last seven or eight games with screens to the right with our [running] back. We knew they would bite on that, so we ran that back out to the right, pump faked and the safety came down and we hit them deep for a touchdown. It was exactly how we drew it up,” he said.

Stubbefield was full of praise for his team’s defense for keeping the lead intact and ensuring Predators lifted the trophy.

“We’re normally a pretty high scoring team. I had a few interceptions today but our defense – this is the best defense this league has ever seen. I give them props,” he said.

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