The Maples Dolphins have all the ingredients of a contending team.
They have veteran leadership, exceptional athletes and victories over some of the top teams in the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association 2013 Digicel Summer League. Yet doubts linger over how serious Maples are with a draw on their record and a history of playoff futility.
Dolphins cocaptain Will Peguero Jr. said his team wants to shed any labels of mediocrity.
“We’re out there trying to get it done,” Peguero said. “We’re very much underrated because we tied with the Cox Colts. It’s all centered around consistency, when you don’t win consistently, people will doubt you. We have a short-term memory approach.
“We feel we can beat any team. We don’t play down to anyone, we approach each team with the same tenacity. Like Herm Edwards said, we play to win the game. When we lose, we beat ourselves. We’re coming for a championship this year.”
Maples currently sit third in the Men’s Premier League standings at 7-1-2. The Dolphins trail Brendon Malice and the Burger King Panthers and Jamie Stephen and the Lone Star Mustangs, both teams have identical 8-2 marks.
In pursuit of Maples are Damian Barboram and the 6-4 Hellcats, the four-time reigning champions; the 4-1-5 Colts, who feature the likes of Sonny Powell; 3-7 Cayman Power Sports and Marine Hurricanes with guys like Smarnell Thomas; 3-7 KPMG Sharks with talents like Jeff Wight; and 0-10 WestStar Saints, with prodigies like Dudley Ramsay.
All of those teams are slated to leap into action this Saturday, Aug. 24, at Ed Bush Sports Centre in West Bay. Cox face Panthers at 11 a.m., Saints tackle Sharks at 12:15 p.m., Hurricanes battle Mustangs at 3:30 p.m. and Maples challenge Hellcats at 4:45 p.m. in week 11 of the 12-week season. The playoffs are expected to start on Sept. 7 with only the top six sides making the postseason and the top two seeds earn first round byes.
Peguero said Saturday’s clash, which comes after Maples beat West Bay in week one, is all about playoff seeding.
“We’re taking this game each week and we’re more focused on the task this week. Last time out it was Burger King and this week it’s West Bay. We have the toughest schedule in the second half of the season. We’re preparing ourselves for the postseason, we want that bye. We have room to grow and it’s up to us to get it done,” he said.
Statistics-wise, Maples have been decent. The Dolphins are fourth in scoring (registering 136 points) and fourth in defense (allowing 80 points). The side has an offensive dynamo in Leslie Harvey (one rushing, three receiving and six passing touchdowns) and solid two-way player in Jordan Cacho (nine tackles and one interception for a TD on defense with eight catches and a TD on offense).
Peguero said many players deserve props for their play.
“The only word going around in our camp is championship. When we do well, it’s because everyone on the team does well. Christopher Bennett has definitely improved and having his best year at receiver. Davanni James gets in the backfield, Leslie doesn’t get enough credit for leading us while quarterback Barrett Edri was gone.
“People like Terry Ballard have stepped up this year and head coach Shawn Pitterson has committed so much to the team, on and off the field. The offensive line never gets much love, with people like Andrew Graham, but when they do well, the team does well,” Peguero said.
Playoff buzz is not only for male players as the ladies are also in action on Saturday. Lady Saints face Lynx at 10 a.m., Maples Thundercats tackle Androgroup Killa-Panthers at 1:30 p.m., while Zulu Warriors battle Ultra B’zzz and at 2:30 p.m. Lady Sharks attack CrossFit 7-Mile Scorpions while Wolverines challenge Star Athletic Club.
The Women’s Premier League standings are tight as Shinette Rhoden and the first place Wolverines and the Lynx with Saneata Smith are 8-2; Cassandra Bodden and the 7-1-2 Scorpions are third; and Sheyla Torres and the 6-4 Warriors are fourth. The rest of the standings feature Shamar Ennis and the 5-1-4 Killa-Panthers; Scimone Campbell and the 5-1-4 Lady Sharks; Kathy Miller and the 4-6 B’zzz; Amanda Nelson and the 3-2-5 Star Athletic; Jessica Maxwell and the 1-1-8 Thundercats; and Danielle James with the 0-10 Lady Saints.