Considering their recent form, it would be easy to dismiss the dms West Bay Hellcats.
The reigning dynasty of local flag football has been far from dominant this year, sitting fourth in the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association 2013 Digicel Summer League. Prior to last Saturday’s showdown with the Maples Dolphins, Hellcats were 6-4 in the Men’s Premier League with losses to all of the top three teams.
For West Bay head coach Jayson ‘Papi-Rican’ Gonzalez, the Hellcats still have the drive to be champions again.
“This year is really competitive, which is good for the league,” Gonzalez said. “The Burger King Panthers are a really good team, the Lone Star Mustangs are a good team and Maples are good too. We faced Maples and we face Panthers again. Unfortunately, we lost some games we shouldn’t have lost but we’ll find a way to get back to the top of the league again.
“We’re not concerned about that at all. We had our issues this year. I believe in this team and we will step up again. Winning another championship: that is our goal. Until someone beats us in the playoffs, we’re still the champs.”
For the second straight season, the Hellcats look destined to fall short of a regular season crown. Last year Lone Star, then called the Clubhouse Bulldogs, took those honours and history could well repeat itself. The Mustangs went into the weekend with an identical 8-2 record to the Panthers, with the association opting to use a head-to-head tiebreaker rule to seed Burger King first over Lone Star. Maples were third at 7-1-2.
The Hellcats, the four-time reigning national champions, would be quick to point out that Clubhouse lost in last year’s finals to West Bay, a team the Bulldogs have repeatedly lost to in the playoffs.
This year’s postseason, which starts on 31 August, could see the clubs square off again, depending on seeding. The top two teams earn first round byes while the third seed faces the team in sixth and the fourth and fifth seeds battling it out. The regular season finale is this Saturday, 24 August, with the Hellcats scheduled to play the Panthers at 11.15am and Lone Star battling Maples at 3.45pm.
For dms centre Adrean ‘Big Sexy’ Russell, the focus now is turning around the team’s fortunes in the playoffs.
“The end of the season schedule makes for some movement in the current seeding by all teams with a lot of head-to-head battles that will determine playoff seeding and if some teams make the playoffs,” Russell said. “The season has been up and down with bright spots of the team playing more like a unit. We’re looking forward to building on this as we end the season and head into the playoffs.”
Statistics-wise, there are positives for West Bay to build on. The side was ranked third in scoring (registering 143 points) and second in defence (allowing only 54 points). The roster features the usual gathering of veteran talent like Oliver ‘Dark Star’ Parker, Tito ‘Show Stopper’ Solomon and Jacob ‘Frecko’ Ebanks. Gonzalez said a number of players have done well this season.
“Raymond ‘Barnzy’ Barnes and Al ‘Big Al’ Nixon have stepped up on the offensive line. Nate ‘Nate Dawg’ Narcisse has been steady on defence and as a back-up quarterback and Phil ‘Pacman’ Brown is our leader, anywhere you put him he steps up and makes plays,” said Russell.
To this point, West Bay’s only other loss was via forfeit to Jonny McLaughlin’s 4-1-5 Cox Colts. The Hellcats were involved in a mild skirmish with the Panthers in a loss last month that led to both benches clearing and the association suspending both clubs for one game.
Russell said, losses aside, a number of players deserve props for the victories this year.
“We’ve had some guys step in and perform well in roles that they are not accustomed to like Al ‘Sharpton’ Nixon solidifying the offensive line with some commendable play,” he said. “Nick ‘Torres’ Bush and Mike ‘Helmet’ Carey on the special teams kicking unit getting it done every week.
“Nate ‘QB2’ Narcisse is having a strong year at cornerback. And then on defensive line, we have Jeremy ‘Weat’ Miller eating up the middle at nose tackle and Thor ‘Yoga’ Scott filling in for him at times.”