Playoff stages in any sport are always fascinating as they provide an ideal opportunity for the little teams to redress the balance if they’ve had a poor league season.
That’s exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow when the mighty Margaritaville West Bay Hellcats, undefeated in all 10 matches, square up to PricewaterhouseCoopers Chargers who are at the other end of the success spectrum having lost every one of their league matches.
As predictions go this is a no-brainer but stranger things in sports have happened. If the Hellcats are not mentally and physically as well prepared as they should be at the Outpost Fields, then there could be a major upset. Hellcats seemed to be cruising to the title last season when disaster struck and they lost unexpectedly in the semis. Over confidence was the problem. Fully aware of that, star quarterback Frecko Ebanks has promised no repeat.
Next Level Nitemares play WestTel Giants in the other Western Division playoff. QB John Mack has been a revelation again for Next Level. They finished second in the league with only three losses – two to Hellcats and once against Digicel. Next Level will start marginal favourites but it’s not a forgone conclusion.
In the Eastern Division Digicel Spartans were almost as dominant as Hellcats, losing only once in a close game to the Hellcats, 13-6. They play the division’s bottom club AL Thompson Hammers, which has only won twice despite being champions last season. Hammers has promised to turn its league form around and cause an upset. Watch out.
Hammerhead Sharks (5-5) play Maples & Calder Packers (2-8) in the other game. That’s a close call even though the form suggests the Sharks should go through.
George ‘Teddy’ Hydes, president of Zulu’s Cayman Islands Flag Football Association, is also the Hellcats coach. He gave his assessment of the playoff matches.
He said: ‘Hellcats are undefeated and PricewaterhouseCoopers are winless but the playoffs mean that for everybody it’s a whole new season and anything can happen. Chargers proved at the end of the season that they can put points on the board. Hellcats will have to be on the A-game. Frecko will have to be on top form and both offence and defence will have to play to their full capacity.
‘Next Level’s game against WestTel will be very competitive. Both know how to play the game really well. Neither have superstars and they’re both very knowledgeable because they have lots of Americans and Canadians. Their last game was very tight with Next Level winning and I don’t see this one being any different.
‘In the third game, Digicel, on paper, are the better team but AL Thompson’s poor record doesn’t reflect the quality of the team. This year they’ve lost key players for various reasons, people like Kevin Solomon and Colin Anglin who went to the Island Games to represent Cayman in volleyball and bastketball. As for Digicel, they’re always at the top of the competition. They have stars like Luigi Moxam, Oliver Parker and Leslie Harvey, although Harvey might be missing in the later stages if he has to go back to school. Digicel have a good mix of veterans who are very competitive. There should be some great action, a lot of speed from both sides and it should be very tight and technical because they both have good players who execute the game well.
‘In the final game on Saturday it could be the best of the day between Hammerhead Sharks and Maples & Calder. There will be an edge to this one because some Maples players used to play for Hammerheads. The X-factor is the quarterback play in this one. Whoever plays the best should win. I favour Hammmerheads’ Nolan Karrum. If he plays to his potential they could do it. If Sean Moyle is their QB they can win it too. He is very versatile and a good receiver too. Brendan Malice is an ex-college player at the University of Florida. He is definitely the heart of the team and can play a variety of positions too, including quarterback and running back.’