Volume 12 Week 5

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Ontario Varsity Football
Bantam Panthers win season opener; Jr. Varsity, Varsity teams not so fortunate
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Josh Baka runs back a kick-off return during the Cumberland Panthers season opening game against the West Durham Dolphins on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lynn Gilbault

The Cumberland Panthers kicked off the 2016 Ontario Varsity Football season with limited success on the weekend, winning just one of three games.

The Panthers bantam team easily won their game against the Durham West Dolpbins, but the club's junior and senior varsity teams weren't as fortunate against the Kingston Grenadiers.

The senior team managed just one touchdown in a 37-7 loss to the Grenadiers, while the junior squad didn't fare much better, coming away on the wrong end of a 25-5 result.

After becoming only the second team in club history to make an OVFL championship game last year, the bantam squad has high hopes of returning to the final again this season -- and with the majority of the team's offence back for a second chance at a title, they are heavy favourites to not only make it to the final, but win it.

Head coach Jeff Koradi is refusing to make any such bold predictions, however, for while his offence is ready for the chalenge, the team's defence has been retooled and is largely untested.

"The goal right now is to just be better than our opponent each weekend," says Koradi. "We have a lot of guys on defence who haven't played in a system before and a couple of guys who haven't played football at all. They're just very good athletes, who we hope will become very good players."

On Saturday the defence was lead by a couple of returning veterans in defensive halfbacks Markaedyn Nelson and Justice Koradi who made 15 tackles between them. That was enough to limit the Dolphins to just two offensive touchdowns, the first of which was scored after the Panthers fumbled the opening kickoff deep in their own end.

The Dolphins' other two touchdowns came on kickoff returns.by Jayden Smith including an 80-yard effort.

But 24-points is nowhere near enough against a team that has arguably the best quarterback in the league in Christian Veilloux, and hands down the best receiving corps led by returning first team all-star Josh Ruby.

The Panthers racked up 582 yards on offence, 348 of which came through the air as Veilleux completed 15 of 26 passes to six different receivers and threw for three of his team's seven touchdowns.

Ruby caught five passes for 150 yards and a major, while Zane Teichrob and Maxime Dery had the other two touchdown receptions.

After playing set up man for first team all-star Jacob Asselin last season, Fabrice Mukendi took over the role of feature running back with relative ease on Saturday, running for 101 yards and two tochdowns on 11 carries.

Sebastien Rondeau ran for 30 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and Veilleux ran twice for 70 yards and another TD.

The Panthers must travel to Oshawa next Saturday to face the Hawkeyes, while the junior varsity and varsity teams will use an early bye week to get in some extra practice time and prepare for their next opponents.

The Hawkeyes will present an excellent early season test for the bantam Panthers. They've won their first two games, limiting their opponents to just a touchdown per game while averaging 24 points per game on offense.

Patrick Cumberbatch runs back an interception dusring the Cumberland Panthers opening season win against the West Durham Dolphins on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lynn Gilbault

(Posted 9:30 p.m., May 23)

 

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