Repeating championship glory is a tough thing to do.
Players have to be kept in the fold, the team has to be healthy and for the most part the squad has to beat improved competition.
Thus a repeat title for the Caybrew Farm Soldiers in the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association Men’s League looks anything but secure.
Last season they beat Doghouse in an intense final to claim their first title in team history.
The season was a rollercoaster one for Caybrew as they started out well but hit a snag near the midway point of the season.
However over the last five weeks of the season the Farm Soldiers found their form and marched into the playoffs as a legitimate contender.
In addition to beating Dog House, a perennially strong team, the squad beat former flag football dynasty the Goldfield Hellcats out of West Bay.
With the new season starting this Saturday attention shifts largely to Caybrew as fans and opponents alike ponder their fate this season.
To replicate last year’s success Caybrew have to meet three criteria: their key players have to perform well, the defense has to stay solid and the offense has to stay balanced.
Last season the Farm Soldiers excelled largely due to three main stars in quarterback Luigi Moxam, two-way star Brad Connelly and defensive star Edison Jackson.
Moxam is arguably the best QB in the league and now has the experience and a title to back that up. There is no denying Moxam has the arm strength and quickness to hurt teams in and out of the pocket.
However on occasion he gets into trouble by losing his cool and throwing bad interceptions. A Caybrew repeat depends on his preserve under pressure.
Connelly did it all last season. He caught passes out of the slot, made solid returns and made clutch tackles on defense. His hustle and energy are legendary and undeniable. All of that effort could rub off into fatigue this season, thus getting rest is key.
Jackson emerged into the limelight last season with his nose for the QB. He had many great sacks and made solid tackles in the open field. However the result is teams might double-team him. Thus Jackson needs added help up front to keep the quarterback pressure on.
On the other hand, Caybrew has all the pieces to stay stingy on defense. Guys like Eckerd McField and Tito Solomon have the athleticism to make up for tactical mistakes. It is simply a matter of getting everyone on the same page once again.
On offense Moxam needs his receivers to continue to step up. Guys like William Peguero Jr. and Leslie Harvey proved they can make big catches last year. Those guys have to avoid dropping balls in bunches so that pressure doesn’t fall squarely on Moxam or running back Oliver Parker.
More than any other factor, Caybrew’s chances for a repeat hinge on their competition. Dog House and the Hellcats have long-been two of the best teams in local flag football.
The three teams have had a starring role in each of the last five seasons and there is a chance of another title going to one of them this season.
Dog House prides itself on balance as they can hurt teams equally on offense – behind QB Johnny Mack and running back Phil O’Connor – and defense, led by captain and CIFFA President Todd Hazelwood. However they might be hurt by the loss of some players to the local roll-over policy.
The Hellcats meanwhile have refocused their club and made some notable transactions this season. Gone is Nikolai Hill and Taj Haye, both to the Hammerhead Pirates.
However the core of the team in QB Frecko Ebanks, two-way star Perry Levy and defensive stalwart Ike Bush remain and the Hellcats should be a contender.
Outside of those two almost every other team has added key players. Maples, PWC and Hammerheads all boast new athletic recruits while the other teams hope new faces reap more wins.
Ultimately it’s tough to call any one a powerhouse so early on but right now Caybrew have enough talent left to earn props as pre-season favourites.