The Dog House Bulldogs have gone from beer supping casual players to arguably the most disciplined flag football unit in their four seasons.
That’s why they got tantalisingly close to winning the championship for the first time on Saturday at the Dart Field.
They may have lost 20-13 to the Caybrew Farm Soldiers, but the Bulldogs can hold their heads high after a glorious season when they only lost only once in regular games.
Dog House probably had the most supporters with their partners coming out consistently every week and for the final their better halves even formed a cheerleading team for their heroes who arrived and left in a hired bus.
Everybody gathered at the Dog House in Grand Harbour on Saturday night for an awards night and to socialise. The obligatory banter was plentiful without it getting nasty, thankfully, as the alcohol kicked in, which was a nice touch.
Bulldogs player Todd Hazlewood said: ‘Naturally, we’re disappointed. Our goal coming into the season was to win the championship.
‘We got so close but we weren’t able to do it. It was a tough way to end it but as far as the league goes I think it was an amazing championship game.
‘Everyone was entertained and if there’s a team that’s going to win it with integrity, it’s the Caybrew Farm Soldiers.
‘So much respect to them, they did a great job. We may have had a better regular season but they came out today and played a better game. That’s what it takes to win.’
Hazlewood is on the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association committee and he is delighted with the way the inaugural women’s league season went.
The championship was won by Hammerheads Lady Pirates who came from 14-6 down to overhaul the previously unbeaten Walkers Wonders 19-14 in a scintillating game.
‘The women’s league was a huge success,’ added Hazlewood, who announced the award winners. ‘We never anticipated it to be this enthusiastic and popular but it has been and from here what we’re going to do is the I-Cup, an international tournament when you represent where you’re from.
‘That’s November 8 and 9. That gives everyone a chance to meet different teams and players. It’s a great tournament that draws a lot of interest because you’re playing for your country. It adds a little something.’
Christine Bisnauth was the jubilant Lady Pirates captain. Although not swigging from a keg of rum with a parrot perched on her shoulder, she and team-mates did a fair amount of celebrating.
They were never daunted as underdogs, coming into the final having lost three in the regular season. Bisnauth was convinced her exceptional speed, gleaned from training as a long jumper and sprinter in track and field, would pay dividends. Sure enough she got her name on the score sheet, as usual.
‘I had no doubts that we would win,’ Bisnauth insisted. ‘We have a great team and we came together very positively and encouraged each other. In our minds we had already won that trophy.
‘We wanted to have a strong defense in this game. We’ve always been strong offensively but in defense we had to be good because we knew that Walkers were strong offensively – and I think we came through!’
She is already relishing next season even though its months away. ‘I think next season it’s going to be more competitive, that’s how popular the sport has become.
‘It has pretty much exploded and a lot of good new players will come through. I think it’ll be even better and I’m looking forward to playing again next year.’
A subdued Walkers Wonders attended the awards in force and mixed merrily with the Pirates.
Jose’s Esso Gasolinas were also well represented. They had an enjoyable season despite winning only once and that was in the last match. Yet the Gasolinas had the sort of chemistry usually only seen with winning teams.
Quarterback Christina McTaggert summed it up beautifully. ‘This season has been really good,’ she said. ‘It was pleasing to see the Cayman Islands provide this sort of outlet for women. We had the worse record, but honestly, the most fun in the league.
‘The interesting part of this is that we were friends from high school and middle school days and hadn’t seen each other for a really long time and it was like us getting back together and getting reacquainted with each other.
‘Not many athletes on the team but you now what, it was great fun. That last match, the victory was against Maples, who ironically, I work for, so that’s really kind of funny.’
She was the only one with American football experience. ‘I played football with the guys in high school. None of the girls had played previously. So we eventually all learned the game just by playing.
‘By the end of the season I think we were a little force to be reckoned with now. Next year it’ll be more interesting because we understand the game a lot better now.’