The dms West Bay Hellcats have every reason to relax.
Cayman’s most dominant flag football dynasty is coming off a fourth consecutive championship season and its seventh title run in nine years. The squad has no major changes and their tactics are well established under head coach Jayson “Papi-Rican” Gonzalez.
Yet, as veteran Nikolai “Nino” Hill states, the team enters this season with guarded optimism.
“It’s not about our preparation, other teams are more prepared and have boosted their squads,” Hill said. “The Burger King Panthers and the Cox Colts, for instance, have recruited a lot and we got to match them.
“I’ve always thought we had better skill positions, but other teams are catching up. We just got to stay sharp and confident.”
The Cayman Islands Flag Football Association sees the opening regular season games in its 2013 Digicel Summer League this Saturday, 1 June, from noon at the Ed Bush Sports Centre in West Bay.
This year’s league is marked by substantial growth as the Men’s Premier League has returned to fielding eight teams, as it did years ago. All of those squads take the field on Saturday with Joe Byrd’s Saints and the Colts up first and Jon Pump’s Lone Star Mustangs face Andrew Frederick’s Panthers at 1.15pm.
Glenn Duran Jr.’s Cayman Power Sports and Marine Hurricanes battle the KPMG Sharks at 4.30pm and the Hellcats tangle with Shawn Pitterson’s Maples Dolphins at 5.45pm.
There is also a Women’s Premier League with most of the players having previously participated in the Grand Cayman Flag Football Association Dart Women’s League, with the Wolverines emerging the 2012 champs.
All 10 female squads storm the field on Saturday. At 11am, Agueda Blake’s Wolverines, under coaches Adrean “Big Sexy” Russell, Phil “Pacman” Brown and David “Baggy” Taylor, face the Lynx, under Renford “X-Factor” Barnes and Oliver “Dark Star” Parker.
Shamar Ennis’ Androgroup Killa-Panthers challenge CrossFit 7Mile Scorpions at 2.30pm, while Killa Bzzz tackle Maples. At 3.30pm, Zulu Warriors battle the Lady Sharks while Star Athletic Club contend with the Lady Saints.
Hill, who has won five titles with dms, states the added competition in the men’s division is cause for concern.
“I’m not predicting another championship because this will be the toughest competition in league history. I’m expecting tough competition from Burger King, as Brendon Malice’s team is looking real good and super confident, the Bulldogs (now called the Mustangs) are still strong.
“With all that being said, we’re expecting to be in the mix with our experience and consistency.”
The Hellcats barely lifted the trophy last season as the Bulldogs played a tight final that was decided in overtime. Many of the talents that guided that team are on the Mustangs though 2012 league Most Valuable Player Dave “Spanish” Velez and quarterback Chris Spigner are expected to miss significant portions of this season for personal reasons.
Pump said the presence of new faces will present a challenge.
“We got some new faces on the team and it will take awhile for everyone to gel,” Pump said. “It will be a challenge. Then again, it will be a good league with some new faces and teams. We feel good about our chances.”