Champs run undefeated en route to CIFFA titles

Panthers QB Brendon Malice shows elation after a big play that helped seal their title.

Burger King Panthers and HSM Vipers extended their unbeaten runs on 20 October, as they both successfully defended their Cayman Islands Flag Football Association (CIFFA) men’s and women’s titles, respectively, on a drama-filled day at Ed Bush Sports Complex in West Bay.

Championship Saturday started with the Panthers facing off against Uncle Clem Wolves under bright sunshine. With the Wolves struggling to get their offensive machinery in gear, Panthers took advantage early with quarterback Brendon Malice connecting with Taj Haye to give the defending champs the 7-0 lead.

Paul Chin goes up for the reception.

Ramon Sealy then made one of his two field goal attempts to extend the lead to 10 points. Wolves fought back late, with Peter Whittaker rushing to the end zone to cut the lead to 10-7. A late onside kick by Wolves was recovered by Panthers to seal the title.

An elated Panthers defensive captain Jermaine Sharpe spoke to reporters after hoisting the trophy. “We had a great game today, everybody came out to fight,” he said, explaining that their game plan was to control the tempo from the start.

2018 CIFFA Men’s Champions – Burger King Panthers.

Shouting “14-0! Panther Nation, baby!” Sharpe said he was proud of his team for maintaining their unblemished record through the regular season and the playoffs. “It’s only been done once before…we stuck together and were able to play as a unit. We’re a squad, we play for each other and that’s our strength.”

Meantime, the late game for the women’s hardware proved to be a defensive battle between HSM Vipers and Greenhouse Lynx. In a tightly-contested game, both teams tried to implement creative offensive schemes but stingy defence on both sides made scoring difficult. Scoreless through regulation, overtime was needed to determine the women’s champion.

Jennifer Choice made Lynx defenders sweat.

Lynx drew first blood when Shenel Gall streaked untouched to the end zone for the score but missed a crucial extra-point conversion. Vipers went deep into their playbook on the ensuing drive with Jennifer Choice taking the snap before pitching to QB Lisa Malice, who passed to Alicia Dixon, who lateralled to Choice who found a hole in the defence and made her way to the promise land to tie the score. After having a kick blocked earlier in the contest, Ericia Burke left no questions unanswered when she drilled it through the uprights to secure a 7-6 win that gave the Vipers their third consecutive title.

Shenel Gall moved the ball with grace for Lynx.

“It’s probably the best finals that I’ve ever played in. We played a great team. They’re well coached, they have great heart. What we saw this evening were two women’s teams that came out and played hard and took it right down to the wire,” said Vipers veteran Maggie Ebanks, who had a number of key plays on both sides of the ball.

“These are the moments that you play for all season…It doesn’t get much sweeter than this,” Ebanks said of edging their rivals in a rematch of last year’s finals.

HSM Vipers celebrated their third straight title.

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