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NCAFA Football
Panthers, Bengals battle to 9-9 overtime tie in bantam showdown
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Cumberland Panthers running back Ekom Akpan takes off with the ball during second half action against the Orleans Bengals on Saturday. Fred Sherwin/Photo


For the better part of 12 quarters of football on Saturday the Cumberland Panthers completely dominated the Orleans Bengals, posting three straight blowouts over their east end rivals.

The Bengals were at risk of being swept out of Millennium Park. Their only hope of avoiding a possible sweep was their bantam team.

After downing the Gloucester South Raiders 29-6 in their season opener, the senior Bengals enjoyed a bye in Week 2 which gave them an extra week to prepare for the Panthers.

Cumberland had a bye last week as well, but it wasn't scheduled. After losing to the Cornwall Wildcats in Week 1, they were supposed to take on the East Ottawa Generals last Saturday, but the Generals didn't have enough players so they ended up having to forfeit the game.

With neither team having played a real game in two weeks, both the Bengals and Panthers looked a little shaky in the early going, especially on offence.

The Bengals eventually scored late in the first quarter on a trick play. Facing a third and long situation they lined up to punt the ball, but went for the pass instead. Darcy Lavoie found a wide open Nick Lamothe about 20 yards downfield, who easily ran the ball into the end zone to give the Bengals the early 7-0 lead.

The Panthers were knocking on the door in the second quarter thanks to the running of twins Ekom and Uyo Akpan, but the Bengals were able to stop them on three straight plays inside the five yard line.

When Orleans failed to move the ball after the change over on downs, they decided to give up a safety rather than give the Panthers a second chance inside the five.

The score remained 7-2 in favour of the Bengals until the third quarter when Orleans tried to take advantage of a Cumberland turnover near midfield. A
35-yard run by Isaiah Harris set up a 15 yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked by Trey Morgan and recovered by Tyler Yaworski inside the 10.

After failing to move the ball, the Panthers decided to do what the Bengals had done a quarter earlier. Rather than risk giving their opponents excellent field position, they gave up a safety and kicked the ball off from their 35-yard line.

The Panthers managed to manufacture their best drive of the game early in the fourth quarter. With Matt Dolet nursing an injury on the side line, the Akpan brothers took turns under centre along with Ryan Donoghue. A 15-yard face mask penalty against the Bengals also helped the Panthers who moved the ball inside the 10-yard line on a great run by Eli Ankou. Donoghue then took the ball up the middle on first and goal from the six yard line to set up the game tying extra point.

The score remained kotted at 9-9 until the end of the fourth quarter, which meant the game had to be settled in overtime. Under NCAFA rules, if a game is tied after four quarters, both teams get two chances to score from the
35-yard line. If neither team can score then the game officially ends in a tie.

The Bengals were first up in overtime, but after failing to pick up a first down their 42-yard field goal attempt fell about five yards short.

The Panthers managed to move the ball on their first possession, but a critical decision to go for it on third and two on the 12-yard line rather than try kicking the ball left them an inch short.

After the Bengals long field goal attempt fell short on their final possession, the Panthers once again managed to move the ball on the ground. The drove all the way to the one yard line where they could have easily gone for the chip shot field goal. At the very least they could have gotten a single. But instead they decided to go for the touchdown, which proved to be a critical mistake.

The Bengals defence came up huge, forcing the Panthers all the way back to the 20 yard line on a pair of losses. Needing an extra point to win the game, the Panthers chose to punt from the 27 yard line. The ball sailed high into the air before coming down into the arms of a Bengals defender who managed to get it out of the end zone before getting tackled on the one yard line.

It was a disappointing result for the Panthers who probably deserved a better fate, but the Bengals were full measure for the tie especially on the last series where they managed to come up with a pair of huge defensive plays when they needed them most.

Both teams will be looking for a win in Week 4 as they take on a pair of West Division teams. The Bengals will host the Myers Riders during homecoming weekend, while the Panthers welcome the Bel-Air Lions.

To view more photos of the game click here

(Updated 11:30 p.m., Sept. 8)

 

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