For the most part, the Burger King Panthers have lived up to the hype.
The preseason title favorites marched into the playoffs near the top of the standings in the 2013 Digicel Summer League, put on by the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association. Burger King capped their regular season campaign against the reigning four-time champions, the dms West Bay Hellcats, on Saturday in a game that impacted seeding for a pair of postseason-bound clubs.
Burger King head coach Joshua Pawlik said his team’s play warrants talk of being the title favorites.
“The best match-up for the league, in my opinion, would be us versus the Lone Star Mustangs in the final,” Pawlik said. “Over the past few years we’ve been very similar with good defense and fundamental football. Mind you, we can’t count out West Bay. They are the reigning champs that have won seemingly every other year. Once they get hot, it’s hard to beat them.”
Burger King went into the finale with an identical 9-2 record to Chip Whitney and Lone Star. The association used a head-to-head tiebreaker to rank the Mustangs first over the Panthers. Trailing Burger King were Nicholas Roberts and the 7-2-2 Maples Dolphins and Al Nixon and the 6-1-4 Hellcats. Raheem Robinson and the No. 5 Cox Colts, 4-1-6, also had secured a playoff berth.
In all, eight teams competed in the Men’s Premier League. Jeff Wight and the 4-7 KPMG Sharks were jostling with Smarnell Thomas and the 3-8 Cayman Power Sports and Marine Hurricanes for the sixth and final playoff spot. Alvaro Obando and the 0-11 WestStar Saints were in last place.
The postseason is slated to begin on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Ed Bush Sports Centre in West Bay. Pawlik says his side has the personnel to make a deep run.
“Our team is not built on one person. Taj Haye comes up with great catch after great catch. Andrew ‘Hoosh’ Frederick stands out on defence at safety and makes really great catches on offense. We have a deep defensive line with Paul Chin, Jon Carter and Collin Bodden. Our defense starts and ends with our captain Brendon Malice, who knows more about this game than anyone else.
“Plus, our quarterback Chris Lucas is the best QB in the league. He has one of the highest completion percentages because he gets out of the pocket and throws to receivers like David Taylor. He’s good at avoiding the sack and making plays out of the pocket.”
Burger King earned preseason hype this year after starting their training regimen immediately after last season, when the side was eliminated from the postseason by the Hellcats. Burger King would roll to eight straight victories in 2013 before a controversial league suspension dashed their bid at a perfect season.
The record books will show KPMG as the team that halted the Panthers’ perfect season. That fact remains a bitter pill to swallow for Pawlik and company.
“We couldn’t keep our perfect season intact. Burger King is such a great sponsor and we wanted to do it largely for them. Our goal now is getting that championship. We want to get KPMG in the first round because it hurts the most to see that 6-0 score on the records. We hope to see them again and we’ll see what the score reads then.”