The Burger King Panthers are the second-best team on Cayman’s flag football scene right now, but they are gradually closing the gap on the mighty Kensington Hellcats.
Panthers beat the Hellcats twice earlier in the season but on Saturday were 14-3 losers to the perennial champs who aim to retain the championship this season.
Two years ago, the Panthers grabbed the title from the Hellcats and despite Saturday’s loss, key players like Glenn Duran believe regaining the championship is well within their grasp.
“Naturally, I think that any loss stings a bit, especially when I know that we are capable of winning every game based on the caliber of team,” Duran said. “However, an occasional loss can be great motivation to get a team rolling again and that’s our outlook for the balance of the regular season and on into the playoffs.”
He admits that the Hellcats are a tough side to beat three games in a row, so losing this time was no disgrace. “They wanted it more than us this time around and the way they played was a reflection of that so it was a well deserved victory for them.”
Duran was the Panthers quarterback and he made his typical impression with darting runs and slick passes and feints.
He felt he was a little off his game but credit should be given to the formidable Hellcats defense, adept at snuffing out opposition and preventing opponents from finding their rhythm.
Duran insists that his side is “extremely confident that we can be champs this year.”
They have held both the top offense and defense records for the majority of the season, which is a testament to their cohesiveness and all-around team chemistry. “When we execute well and limit our mental errors, we are a tough team to beat.”
Panthers play Island Heritage Predators on Saturday at the Ed Bush Stadium in West Bay and expect to get back to their winning ways.
“We just need to regroup and get most of our kinks out and I believe that will put us back on track and give us the momentum that we need heading into the playoffs,” he said.
Other key Panthers players are Brendon Malice, who Duran says “has been a great leader for our team on a perennial basis.”
Malice is a meticulous student of the game and he radiates that knowledge throughout the team.
“Brendon does a great job of keeping us organized and getting us prepared week after week and season after season.”
Neil “Nelly” Daniels, is also a good coach/player who provides critical guidance, said Duran.
“Collectively we are great team with awesome role players. However, I would say that our key contributors offensively are wideouts Brandon Copico, Jon Pump, monster offensive tackle Greg Miller, explosive running back Rashad Rankin and anchor center Conrad Gough.”
Defensively, Duran praises Malice, the brilliant safety unit of Nick Roberts and Andrew Frederick and also John Carter, Jamall Dell, Chip Whitney and the superb leadership qualities of Jermaine Sharp.
Duran has had a solid season so far considering he has not really played quarterback regularly for a while. Physically and athletically, he “feels great” and attributes that to his strength and conditioning program that “complements my God given abilities.”
Mentally, he feels sharp and sees the field fairly well despite the rust. “The quarterback position is a very cerebral one, so I am proud to have one of the top QB ratings in the league. It’s been refreshing getting back in the driver’s seat and leading my offense to a hot start.”
Duran has played for the Panthers for the past two seasons after previously turning out for the Hurricanes and the Farm Soldiers.
His versatility and athleticism allows him to also play running back, defensive back and kick returner.
Duran was the starting running back for the Panthers last season and felt honored to be named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
His family is from the U.S. Virgin Islands and in his formative years led a nomadic life through his father’s stint in the U.S. Army.
The operations supervisor at a financial firm, 32-year-old Duran is also a trained exercise physiologist as well as strength and conditioning specialist with extensive experience in the health and fitness industry.
Besides flag, he has played a little basketball and softball here.
As for unfulfilled sporting ambitions, he claims to have no more personal goals having had “a great collegiate career that I am content with – I just love being competitive and staying active now.”
His true ambition is to help local youngsters like his son Immanuel, 10, accomplish their sporting goals which could lead to athletic scholarships and even pro careers. The young Duran is already displaying his father’s sporting genes and excelling in soccer, baseball and flag football. “I am super proud of him.”
Duran has a varied sporting background which includes soccer, basketball, American football, track and field, Olympic weight lifting and tennis.
“I started with soccer at 7 years old while my father was stationed in Germany. After moving to Fort Hood, Texas, I picked up basketball when I was 9 and it was my favorite sport for a few years.”
Then it was American football at middle school, the sport he took most seriously.
“I played most of my high school football in South Florida and was recruited to play football at multiple universities, but chose to attend Concordia University-Wisconsin (a National Collegiate Athletic Association university).”
He had a glittering college career in various positions and also played semipro briefly in Wisconsin before suffering an injury that prompted him to leave contact football behind.
Despite the demands of family and professional life, there is no compromise in pursuing sports recreationally. Flag football’s evolution here has been pleasing for Duran. “It has experienced growth from year to year and is becoming more competitive with each passing season.
“I’ve been here since 2009 and the league is improving with great consistency. The youth league particularly is a testament to that.”
Duran believes American football is “the ultimate team sport that helps build great character,” adding, “It is by far the most strategic sport and takes great cohesiveness by every player on the field to do their job in order for one play to be successful.
“My hope is to continue to share my talents and knowledge of the sport locally to see continued growth and maturation of our local athletes.”