They play under bizarre names like ‘Cadillac’, ‘Pacman’, ‘Chilli Bean’, ‘Big Dog’ and ‘Bird Man’ but there’s nothing weird about their unbeaten record this season. More like awesome.
Margaritaville West Bay Hellcats sound like three names rolled into one and sometimes the opposition must feel like they’re playing three teams at once. Led by their irrepressible coach George ‘Teddy’ Hayes, they went throughout the regular Zulu Cayman Islands Flag Football season unbeaten in 10 games then smashed PricewaterhouseCooper 27-0 in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.
Reliable quarterback Jacob ‘Frecko’ Ebanks has been supreme as ever and the wide receivers and running backs have notched up the points from his precision passes, initiated by the snapper Adrean ‘Big Dog’ Russell, one of the biggest players on the island.
Surprisingly beaten in the semis last year, the Hellcats are proud of their unbeaten record so far and are striving to be the first side in the sport’s six year history in Cayman to win the league and championship without defeat. They are just two matches away but face Next Level Nitemares on Saturday, arguably the second best side in the league. Hellcats beat Next Level by the narrowest of margins – 6-0 – both times they’ve played so far and know the nightclub side won’t perform as if they trained on the dancefloor. Their quarterback John Mack is an accomplished competitor who could turn the match with one shrewd pass.
We asked some of the unsung Hellcats heroes what it’s like playing for them.
ADREAN ‘BIG DOG’ RUSSELL (Centre, 24, accounts assistant with DMS Management)
‘I’ve been playing flag football since 2000 and in the league for the Hellcats since it started a year later. Frecko’s been phenomenal this season, his best since 2003. Teddy’s been great too. The receivers too have been playing great. In some games a few key players have been missing but others have stepped up and taken their place equally as well. I’ve played basketball, soccer and volleyball and flag football is my favourite. Next Level are our toughest rivals, I think. We can’t afford to overlook them. They’ve got a good quarterback too. Being 350lbs gives me an advantage. The intimidation factor is that it scares the hell out of opponents when they see me coming.’
CHARLIE ‘ROK’ EBANKS (Linebacker, 32, civil servant)
‘I’ve been with Hellcats since they started. I used to play soccer but just play flag now. I just love American football. Flag has only little contact but I still enjoy it. It’s a great bonding sport. The Hellcats have a great collection of talent. Last year we had more or less the same team but no championship. We want to rectify that this year. We’ve got the talent but we’ve also got to have the team work. We’re more level headed this year. We have great coaching from Teddy. He knows how to get the best out of us. For example, against Maples and Calder we went behind and he kind of shook us up with some expletives that I can’t mention. It did the trick. Next Level always give us their A-game so we can’t afford to take them lightly.’
GLENROY ‘FREAK’ BODDEN (Defensive end, 36, West Bay grocery store owner)
‘I love American football. Big Dallas Cowboys fan. I’m going with Teddy, Barry Bush and Ike Bush on 16 September to see them play Miami. Just to be there will be fantastic. The reason for Hellcat’s success is we have good coaching, a very strong defense and explosive offense. Frecko just keeps getting better. Last year we took it for granted that we would win the championship. That won’t happen this time. We’ve got a tough team in Next Level, they’re coming to beat us. Frecko is the heartbeat of our team, once he’s playing good so are we.
CRAIG ‘FESTA’ FREDERICK (Defensive back, 31,
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‘I’m the league leader in number of sacks, 13. The key to our success is Teddy. This is my first season with West Bay. I played for Papa John’s last season. We lost every single match so it’s nice to be on the other side of the spectrum. I totally enjoy playing with these guys. It’s been an awesome experience. People say they’re selfish and cocky but they’re wonderful team mates. It’s because of them I’ve performed so well. I do feel facing Next Level is the championship game. It will be entertaining and hard. Every time we’ve played them, they’ve kept us in check.
DONNIE RIVERS (Linebacker, 31, property management)
‘I wish we were playing full contact football. Flag is closest we get to that and I love it. I’m a die-hard New York Giants fan and I’m working towards getting to see them. Hellcats have a collection of talent that meshes beautifully. We have the right chemistry. Against Next Level we match up pretty well athletically, but if you go back in our record we’ve always dominated them even if the scores were close and I can’t see anything different on Saturday. I have no doubts that we can remain undefeated. If we get Digicel in the final the only way we can lose is if we take them too lightly and beat ourselves.’