Renford ‘X-Factor’ Barnes has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Barnes sealed a fourth straight national flag football championship for the dms West Bay Hellcats. He had the match’s first touchdown and the game-winning interception in overtime against the Club House Bulldogs at the Ed Bush field over the weekend.
Barnes, who had a championship-clinching pick against the Cox Colts last year, states it cements his legacy.
“We’ve had two titles with me intercepting the ball in the end-zone,” Barnes said. “They were the exact same plays. I wouldn’t say that makes me the best defensive back ever but I’m definitely in the top three.
“Hats off to the front three, Al ‘Big Al’ Nixon, Jeremy ‘Buff’ Miller and Damian ‘Beast’ Barboram, who played great. They made me look good in the end. They all put pressure on the quarterback and helped me out. With that pressure, they couldn’t stop us so I can’t take all the credit.”
The Hellcats-Bulldogs final was a defensive struggle throughout. Both teams, who went into the match’s final minute level at 0-0, had slim chances to score in regulation. Club House tried a 30-yard field goal with 26 seconds left but quarterback Luigi Moxam’s attempt would fall short.
Armed with a controversial pass interference penalty on the Bulldogs’ Zak Kepner, West Bay would get their shot with 1.7s left. Nicholas ‘Assassin’ Bush would attempt a 40-yard field goal but it missed wide right.
West Bay won the overtime toss and had possession first. On their first play, Jacob ‘Frecko’ Ebanks would find Barnes in the end-zone to put the Hellcats up 6-0. Bush would miss the extra-point attempt.
Club House then got the ball with Chris Spigner running the ball on first down. Spigner would throw a pass down the middle on second down but it would be tipped by Jeremy Miller and end up in Barnes’ hands to seal the outcome.
Hellcats head coach Jayson ‘Papi-Rican’ Gonzalez states the end result was never in doubt.
“It was a very exciting game, I never doubted our guys,” Gonzalez said. “I knew our defence would come through. All we needed was one play to score and win the game.
“Club House are a great team. They worked hard and they were our best competition in the league. We’ve battled for years and unfortunately, the ball always bounces our way. At the end of the day, they can’t find a way to beat us.”
Thanks to Barnes’ heroics, the Hellcats now have seven titles in nine seasons and continued bragging rights as local flag football’s reigning dynasty. They overcame an 8-4 record, including a three-game losing streak to end the regular season, to win the Digicel Summer League, put on by the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association. The second-ranked Hellcats beat the 8-4 Burger King Panthers in the first round of the postseason.
Club House meanwhile were 9-3 and went into the playoffs as the number one seed after winning six straight regular season games. They would take down the 7-5 Maples Packers in the first round.
For Bulldogs running back Chris ‘Smitty’ Smith, the way the final ended was excruciating.
“It was a good final that could have went either way,” Smith said. “A couple bad calls threw us off. The pass interference killed us. On the last play, we should have just run it in. We put in a cold quarterback in Spigner and he or I could have run it in.
“But it was a great game on both sides that either team deserved to win. There it was for us on a tipped ball but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. We all played our hearts out.”
The loss is the latest chapter for a Bulldogs team that has historically fallen short in the clutch. The side made it to the league finals in 2008 and 2009, losing to the Calabash Farm Soldiers and later the Hellcats.
For Club House star Dave Velez, that history adds insult to the injury from the game’s final play.
“The best teams play really close,” Velez said. “Unfortunately, this came down to which side came up with a tipped ball. All I can say is our guys played great in the second half.”
Last Saturday’s final saw a decent gathering that included national volleyball star Cristin Alexander. Among the spectators was West Bayer Neville Narcisse, the father of Hellcats cornerback Nathan Narcisse, who stated he inspired dms to victory.
“If I didn’t show up, there would be no inspiration to win,” Narcisse said. “Clay Coleman is my first cousin and I told him I wanted a championship. I was vex after reading in the newspaper that they were losing a couple of games.
“They had to straighten up. I wanted nothing other than a win. I went fishing for barracudas all day but I couldn’t miss that. I’m so glad, so proud of Nathan and the whole team.”