The 2017 CIFFA Premier League champions are the HSM Vipers (women) and the Burger King Panthers (men). Both teams dominated the regular season.
Burger King Panthers vs. Island Heritage Predators
The Burger King Panthers took on the Island Heritage Predators in Saturday’s game at the Ed Bush field. The Predators were dominant in the first quarter, first with a major gain by Ernesto Ebanks, then a touchdown by Baron Solomon. However, once the ball was turned over to the Panthers, they made quick gains and sent a long pass to Taj Haye for a touchdown of their own. Panthers’ Jon Pump then made an extra point to bring the score to 7-6.
The Predators made strides to regain control of the game with runs by Oliver Parker, but Jahmai Dunbar of the Panthers changed the pace with an interception. The Panthers then made gains toward the goal line, despite strong defense from Predators’ Trevor Coleman and Peter Whittaker. After gains from Andrew Frederick, Pump made another catch for a touchdown before halftime to bring the score to 6-14.
For the Island Heritage Predators, Avery Ebanks had an interception at the start of the first half. Predators’ quarterback Jordan Stubblefield looked for his next opportunity but was sacked by Panthers’ Andre Morgan. Kaleb Ebanks, Oliver Parker and Baron Solomon each made gains for the Predators, but the Panthers were able to keep them from scoring and seal their victory.
“This year’s success for the Burger King Panthers was a reflection of players’ versatility and determination. We were initially looking at folding as we didn’t have enough players to field a solid squad,” said coach/player Brendon Malice. “The fact that we were able to come together, play the way we did, and win the trophy speaks volumes about this team. We are a very cohesive unit of guys who work hard, support and respect each other, and just have fun together. As always, we are grateful to have such a committed sponsor in Burger King and Gary Rutty, who has supported us for many years.”
HSM Vipers vs. Greenhouse Lynx
Malice also coaches the women’s champions, HSM Vipers, who took on The Greenhouse Lynx. The Vipers were defending their championship title for the second consecutive year and faced the Lynx in the 2016 finals as well.
The Vipers began on offense but an early interception by Lynx’s Latoya Cover changed the direction of the game.
However, strong defense by the Vipers stopped the Lynx from making major gains. The Vipers’ offense was consistent with what they showed during the regular season, with the ball advancing through passes to Schmarrah McCarthy and Maggie Ebanks. Alicia Dixon also made offensive progression for the Vipers. Shenel Gall ran the ball into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game, and later, a field goal.
Notable defense from the Lynx was present from Denicia Cranston and Marleena Smith.
After halftime, the Lynx came back ready for a second drive with rookie kicker Kristina Seymour at the helm. Vipers’ Gall was able to catch the ball in the end zone and weave through the defense to score another touchdown. Vipers’ kicker Carly Dignam then scored another field goal to bring the score to 14-0.
The Lynx took another chance at offense with a series of gains by Kristina Seymour and Marleena Smith. Despite being sacked by Viper Racquel Brown in the series, Lynx quarterback Erica Bosch passed to Christsania Parker, who scored, followed by a one-point conversion by Denicia Cranston.
The Vipers made no more gains on offense due to strong defense by Lynx Bernadette Beckles, but scored one more time with a touchdown by Jen Choice. The Vipers won the finals 20-7.
“I can’t be more proud to be a part of the HSM Vipers. We had an amazing season and fought hard against the Lynx in the final to come up with the win,” said Vipers captain Lisa Malice. “The Lynx are a respected team with very athletic players and smart coaches. We knew that we would need to elevate our game to secure the win.
“Our coaches Brendon Malice and Andrew Frederick pushed us each week to get the best out of us and kept it fun for us.”
HSM Managing Partner Huw Moses said in a press release, “Having the HSM Vipers come out victorious for the second year in a row is quite an accomplishment. The team had a great season and we are very proud to share this moment with the entire league and our own HSM Vipers.”