Volume 12 Week 5

Sunday, Jan. 20


Team of the Month

Posted Jan. 10

Posted Jan. 9

Posted Jan. 7


Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney

Ontario Varsity Football

Panthers fall to crosstown rival Myers Riders in Wettges Conference final
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Cumberland Panthers running back Fabrice Mukendi finds some open ground during the OVFL Wettges Conference championship game on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lynn Gibeault

The Cumberland Panthers varsity bantam football team found out the hard way on Saturday that having the better talent doesn't always mean you are the better team.

That turned out to be the case against the Myers Riders, who stood between the Panthers and a return trip to the Ontario Varsity Football League bantam championship game to be played next weekend in Hamilton.

With returning players like quarterback Christian Veilleux, receivers Josh Ruby and Maxime Dery, running back Fabrice Mukendi and defenders Justice Koradi and Markaedyn Nelson, the Panthers were the runaway preseason favourites to make it back to the title game.

After beating out the Riders for first place in the conference by a single point, the Panthers were poised to prove they were the best team in the Ottawa area on Saturday, all they had to do was prove it on the field. That's difficult to do, however, when your offence is only able to make three plays in the first quarter and one of them is an interception.

After winning the opening coin toss, the Riders elected to start the game on offence and proceeded to march the ball downfield for a touchdown and the early 7-0 lead.

The Panthers' offence took the field for the first time with just under five minutes left in the first quarter. They were headed back to the sidelines three plays later after they were unable to pick up a first down..

The Riders continued to run the ball straight at the Panthers' defence, chewing up the yardage as well as the clock. The first quarter ended with them knocking at the door once again.

The Panthers did their best to keep the Riders out of the end zone, but were unable to stop them on fourth and goal from the two. With the second quarter barely 90 seconds old, Myers had a 14-0 lead.

The Panthers' next series ended after just three plays when Veilleux threw his first of five interceptions in the game.

Desperately needing to stop the Riders and change the momentum of the game, the Panthers defence did just that forcing Myers to punt the ball from just over midfield.

Starting from their nine yard line, Veilleux was able to string some first downs together using his favourite target Josh Ruby who picked up 11, 17, 8 and 12 yards to set up a 54-yard bomb to Johnny Aoube to cut the Riders lead in half with 1:01 left in the second quarter.

Rather than play it safe and run down the clock to get to halftime, the Riders inexplicably put the ball in the air, allowing Markaedyn Nelson to make his seventh interception of the season and give the Panthers some hope.

With just 35.5 seconds left in the half, Veilleux came through once again, connecting with Nolan Meinzinger on the first play from scrimmage for a 68-yard touchdown pass. William Bettez second extra point of the game drew the Panthers even with the Riders despite running just 13 plays the entire first half.

It was a rejuvenated Panther team that took the field in the second half. They had the Riders, who had six of their top players playing both ways on offence and defence, on their heels, and their own offence had finally hit their stride, or so it seemed.

The Panthers were barely on the field when another errant pass was picked off by the Riders and run back 65 yards for the pick-6 to put Myers back in front 21-14.

Despite the many miscues, the Panthers were determined to keep the score close and on their next series they managed to move the ball down to the Riders' 28-yard line before disaster struck once again in the form of Veilleux's fourth INT of the game.

Not long afterwards, the Riders took advantage of a missed communication in the Panthers backfield and struck for a 68-pass over the middle to a wide open receiver who ran it into the end zone to give the visitors a 27-14 lead with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

The Panthers next series ended with yet another interception which brought the third quarter to an ignominious close. Still the Panthers weren't about to give up.

After the Panther's defence stopped the Riders on successive series, Veilleux led the offence on an impressive 73 yard drive using his arm and his legs, culminating in a nine-yard touchdown pass to Zane Teichroeb. Bettez's third PAT of the contest would make it a six point game with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, that would be as close as they would get as the Riders were able to stop them on their next two series to preserve the win and claim the conference championship.

After the game, a dejected Veilleux bravely owned up to his miscues saying that the loss "was on" him.

"I needed to make decisions out there. That's on me," the 14-year-old quarterback said, forgetting for a moment that he also threw all three Panther touchdowns.

Panthers coach Jeff Koradi summed up the loss in the post game huddle while giving the Riders their due.

"The best team doesn't always win. It's the team that plays best," Koradi told his players. "Today they played just played better than we did. They got some breaks. They did good with their breaks and we just didn't. It's been an outstanding season. I'm very very proud of you. Hold your heads high and we'll see you next season."

For many of the players, "next season" when they report to their respective NCAFA teams for the upcoming National Capital minor football season which gets underway on August 27.

(Posted 3 p.m., July 31)


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