As the play-off stages of the Cayman Islands Flag Football season approaches, the usual two teams stand out as the most likely to be champs; Dog House Bulldogs and the West Bay Goldfield Hellcats.
Games sponsored by Zulu’s Red Bull are played every Saturday at the Ed Bush field in West Bay. Six hours of thrilling flag action starting at noon and including the women’s matches.
The Hammerhead Pirates are a strong unit too, but the top two have over the years shown the most pedigree.
Curiously, the reigning champions Caybrew Farm Soldiers have been inconsistent this season which reflects in their 5-6 record but they should not be written off because with Luigi Moxam spraying the passes about and with the likes of Brad Conolly, Oliver Parker, Glenn Durant Jnr, John Murphy, Taj Haye, Tito Solomon, Edison Jackson and Leslie Harvey when he is available, they are still a formidable side.
Dog House have only lost twice this season and the Hellcats once – to the Pirates. So there is not much between the two best but one significant difference is the goal differential.
Dog House win their games by clear margins whereas many Hellcats victories are close affairs that they have to grind out.
Todd Hazlewood is a safety with the Dog House Bulldogs and also president of the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association.
‘I think the difference between Dog House and Goldfield is that we play every play in every game at 100 per cent and that shows in our point differential this season,’ Hazlewood said.
‘Before Saturday’s games we were plus-168 and they were plus-78.
‘The Hellcats are a very talented team that don’t need to give their best effort in order to win games. They have a few championships under their belt so they take a little bit more to get up for games against weaker opponents.
‘We are still hungry for that trophy so we are really focused. Whenever we play them, they definitely step up their play, so hopefully we’ll get to meet in the finals this year.’
Hazlewood is surprised by Caybrew’s indifferent form but also understands.
‘The Caybrew team has definitely had some adversity this season. It’s not easy to defend a championship and I think they are learning that the hard way this season.
‘Every team is gunning for them as the reigning champs. Also, they lost a few players in the offseason to other teams plus they have had guys hurt, suspended or off island nearly every game. That’s a recipe for a sub-par season.
‘However, if they get past Maples in the first round of the playoffs, it will silence a lot of critics and then anything can happen when you get to the final four.’
He may sound biased but Hazlewood thinks John Mack, the Dog House quarterback, is the best in the position this season.
‘Johnny Mack is having another great year at QB in a year where defenses are tougher than ever. His 24 TD passes are tops in the league.’
Mack himself is modest. ‘We’ve been coming together as a team for five years now, so we’ve really gelled,’ he said.
‘I think it’s because we’ve been together for so long why we do well. Also, in the off-season we play together in the co-ed league, plus I’m on the national team so it seems like a continuation of everything helps.’
Hazlewood singled out some of the players he feels deserves honours this season.
‘Offensively, there is a group of five guys who are in the headlines every week; Perry Levy of Goldfield, Phil O’Connor, Joe Ferruzzi and Jon Pump of Dog House and Nikolai Hill of Hammerheads.
‘But out of that group, I think Nik is the MVP of the league. He completely changes the dynamic of the Pirates offense and he can just take over a game.
‘Defensively, Justin Bodden of Dog House and Brendon Malice of Burger King are the two best linebackers in the league and I think one of them will win Defensive Player of the Year.
‘Also, there are some good newcomers to the league – one of them is Ryan Smith of Burger King. He plays both sides of the ball and is a difference maker for that team. That’s a team nobody wants to face in the play-offs.’
Hill likes the praise he is receiving but the former Hellcats player is not happy that the Pirates have lost three times this season, albeit it to the top teams.
‘If I was in the Dog House or Hellcats teams I would be scared of us,’ Hill said. ‘We’re the most talented and have the most explosive players, including myself, Randy Welcome and Nigel Solomon. Our QB, Donny House is one of the best too.’