Dolphins and Panthers claw ahead

A trio of teams can boast a spotless start on the local gridiron.

The Burger King Panthers, Maples Dolphins and CrossFit 7Mile Scorpions are all undefeated in the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association 2013 Digicel Summer League. Burger King top the Men’s Premier League at 4-0, ahead of 3-1-0 Maples. CrossFit are 4-0 atop the Women’s Premier League.

The Panthers came into this year’s 12-week campaign as one of the pre-season title favourites. Captain Brendon Malice states the early form through the league’s first four weeks validates the hype.

“It’s going pretty well, we started practising earlier and we picked up a couple new players who helped our team compete harder in practice,” Malice said. “We have two new coaches helping us out on offence and defence.

“Overall, I’m not surprised we’re unbeaten. I thought we were coming together at the end of last season and we were the best team in the league. We went into this season thinking we could continue that form and we’re clicking. I like the way we’re playing now.”

Burger King’s latest triumph was a 14-12 win over 1-3 Cayman Power Sports and Marine Hurricanes last Saturday at the Ed Bush Sports Centre in West Bay. Quarterback Chris Lucas completed seven of 11 passes and had a touchdown toss to David Taylor. Malice led the defence with three tackles and an interception while Paul Chin had a sack.

Donnie House stepped in as QB for Hurricanes, tossing two TDs. Nigel Solomon caught three passes and got into the end zone twice. Frankie Brathwaite led the defence with six tackles and a pick.

Maples meanwhile are coming off a controversial 14-14 tie with the 1-1-2 Cox Colts. Chris LeBeau stepped in at QB for the Dolphins, throwing two TDs despite a pick and five sacks. Rupert Whittaker had three catches and a TD with Christopher Bennett nabbing the other score.

Whittaker states the result was crushing and centred on bad form from his defence.

“There was a lot of miscommunication on defence, there was a safety and cornerback issue,” Whittaker said. “We may be undefeated but I would call that game a loss. People came in against Cox thinking they were a slack team and we were going to roll over them. We learnt we can’t overlook anyone. They came out ready to play.”

The defensive statistics show positives for Maples, as Edison Jackson had four tackles and Jahmas Dunbar had a sack. Cox saw new QB Brian O’Reilly go 18-for-30 with two TDs despite a sack and a pick. Raheim Robinson had 10 catches, Jonathan Ebanks had four catches and a TD and Sonny Powell had a TD catch.

On the women’s side, CrossFit are fresh off a 31-0 beating of the Lady Saints last Saturday. Jessica Pawlik threw for three TDs, two went to Cassandra Bodden and Keisha Solomon had the other TD catch. Tamika Byrd of the Lady Saints had a rough outing with three sacks and five picks.

The Scorpions remain ahead of the 3-1 Androgroup Killa-Panthers, who defeated the 2-2 Wolverines by a score of 9-6. Christina Hefner tossed a TD pass to Alicia Dixon while Wolverines QB Nekita Saintvil connected with Sophia Foster for a score. Malice coaches Androgroup and states the key aspect of the women’s competition is the unity it fosters.

“It’s great having the women in the league again. It creates more camaraderie because the women stay to cheer on the guys and the guys in turn cheer on the girls.”

Arguably the most surprising result came in the men’s segment as the 3-1 Lone Star Mustangs crushed the 2-2 dms West Bay Hellcats, 13-0. Lone Star QB Jamie Stephen rushed in for a TD while Josh Parsons ran back a pick for a score on defence.

Malice states the upset shows the intensity of the competition.

“There were a few upsets this past week. Mustangs beating West Bay by two TDs? I didn’t see that happening. Cox tying Maples is another. Our game with Hurricanes could have gone either way so all of that tells you how close the competition in the league is.

“With the new teams, the WestStar Saints are trying to find their identity and it might take them a season to adapt and I wouldn’t sleep on the KPMG Sharks. KPMG have a few new players with experience on the team and they came through in their victory.”

To Malice’s point, the top six playoff spots for the both men and women look far from decided. Heading into this week, Burger King, Maples, Lone Star and dms are the top four male teams with Cox, Cayman Power Sport, KPMG and WestStar playing catch-up.

CrossFit, Androgroup, 2-1-1 Star Athletic Club and 2-2 Lynx are the top ladies with 2-2 Zulu Warriors, 2-2 Wolverines, 2-2 Ultra B’zzz, 1-1-2 Maples Thundercats, 1-3 Lady Sharks and 0-4 Lady Saints in pursuit.

All of the male teams, including Kenneth Davis’ Saints, have shown an ability to be competitive on offence. With two-thirds of the regular season left to play, there figures to be many changes atop the standings prior to the postseason starting on 31 August.

Whittaker states he is simply happy to have closed the gap between the Hellcats, the reigning four-time champs, and everyone else.

“To me, the biggest shock this season has been West Bay. No one saw them losing two games so soon. Beating West Bay was definitely our best moment so far. Now, we got to communicate and do better against the Sharks this week.”

Matches continue this Saturday, 29 June, at Ed Bush. The ladies start things off as Lady Sharks face Ultra B’zzz at 10am, at 1.30pm Androgroup battle Lady Saints while Lynx challenge Star Athletic Club and at 2.30pm CrossFit contend with Maples Thundercats while Wolverines tussle with the Zulu Warriors.

For the men, Cox face Burger King at 11am, WestStar battle Lone Star at 12.15pm, KPMG challenge Maples at 3.30pm and the Hurricanes contend with the Hellcats at 4.45pm.

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