Volume 12 Week 5

Sunday, Jan. 20


Team of the Month

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Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney

NCAFA Football
Mosquito Panthers outlast Wildcats in back and forth contest
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Cumberland Panthers running back Eleijah Zamor runs for one of his five touchdowns against the Cornwall Wildcats on Saturday. Dina Epale/Photo

When the Cumberland Panthers mosquito team took the field against the Cornwall Wildcats on Saturday, they knew they would get their first real test of the season against a team coming off a 44-39 win over the North Gloucester Giants. What they didn't know is just how tough a test it would be.

Both teams are blessed with a feature player who can score touchdowns from anywhere on the field. In the Panthers' case it's running back Eleijah Zamor who scored five touchdowns against the Nepean Eagles last week. The Wildcats main man is quarterback Noah Cardinal, who like Zamor, can score touchdowns in bunches.

The Panther opened the game with a 75-yard, seven play drive, capped by a 30-yard touchdown run by Zamor. A missed convert attempt left the score at 6-0 for the home team.

The Wildcats responded with an 81-yard drive capped by a 21 yard run by Cardinal. And so the lines were drawn. A successful two-point convert by Cornwall kicker Tristan Descamps gave the Wildcats the early 8-6 lead. (Editor's note: At the tyke and mosquito levels a convert kick is worth two points.)

A fumble recovery by the Panthers' Adam Snyder at midfield would set up a 55-yard touchdown run by Matthew Baptiste early in the second quarter. Add a two-point convert by Panthers' kicker Evan Aubrey and the Cumberland was briefly able to enjoy a 14-8 lead.

"Briefly" because the Wildcats responded three plays later with a 29-yard run by Cardinal and another two-point convert by Deschamps to move back in front.

A potential key point in the game came on the Panthers next series. A 28-yard pass from Jacob Coulombe to Jefferson Bretanys Desca gave Cumberland a first down on the Wildcats 11. With a winded Zamor getting a much needed breather on the sidelines, the Panthers were only able to move the ball down to the five before turning it over on downs to the Wildcats.

With less than a minute left to play in the first half and the Wildcats pinned deep in their own end, it seemed unlikely they could do much damage before time expired. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell Cardinal the hopelessness of the situation as the Wildcats' quarterback took the snap, rolled outside and scampered 105 yards down the left sideline and into the Panthers' end zone.

Deschamps third two-point convert of the game would give the Wildcats a well-deserved 24-14 lead at the half.

The Panthers came out in the third quarter determined to slow Cardinal and the Wildcats' offence down, while a rejuvenated and well-rested Zamor did what he does best -- score touchdowns.

The defence achieved their task by not allowing a first down in the third quarter, while Zamor and Baptiste scored a pair of touchdowns to move the Panthers back in front. A pair of Aubry converts made the score 30-14 Cumberland. Zamor's 19-yard touchdown run was set up by a 39-yard punt return by Snyder.

As the fourth quarter started the Panthers had possession of the ball on their own 54-yard line. A high snap could have proved disastrous, but a quick- thinking Zamor gathered the ball up in the backfield, eluded several would-be tacklers and weaved his way through the Wildcat defence all the way into the end zone to extend Cumberland's advantage to 12 points.

The pesky Wildcats were finally able to get the better of the Panthers' defence on the next series thanks mainly to Cardinal's nifty running as the quarterback was able to come up with a 51-yard effort to narrow the deficit to four points following the two-point convert.

The Panthers countered with yet another long touchdown run by Zamor, this time for 53-yards. A missed convert attempt left the score at 42-32 in favour of Cumberland.

With 2:28 left in the game, it was Cardinal's turn to once again come up big for his team with a 49-yard effort with the Wildcats facing third and nine. Deschamps fifth straight convert would narrow the deficit to just two points.

Things were getting tense when Zamor scored his fifth touchdown of the game on a 58-yard run to put the Panthers up by eight. Rather than attempt a possible two-point convert kick, Cumberland lined up for a one-point play to try and give themselves a two possession lead. Put in the game at quarterback, Baptiste rolled out and threw the ball to Zamor who was positioned just inside the goal line.

With the game all but over, the Wildcats worked the ball downfield and eventually scored on a three-yard run by Cardinal who ended up with six touchdowns on the day. Deschamps first miss on the two-point convert attempt left Cornwall trailing by three points with less than 19 seconds to go..

The Wildcats very nearly recovered the ensuing onside kick, but possession was awarded to the Panthers who were more than happy to take a knee on the last play of the game and walk off the field with the 49-46 win.

After the game Panthers head coach Sean Baptiste said he was pleased to see his team rise to the challenge against a strong opponent.

"This was a huge win for us. It was good to see the kids get into a close one, face a little adversity and come back strong," said Baptiste. "And you gotta give credit to Cornwall. They came out hard, they tackled hard and they were hard on the ball. How we responded coming out in the second half on defence set the tone for the rest of the game."

The win allows the Panthers to keep pace with the 4-0 Orleans Bengals atop the East Conference. Next up for the mosquito squad are the South Ottawa Mustangs who are struggling at 0-3. Game time is 4 p.m. at Millennium Park.

(Posted 6:30 a.m., Sept. 11)


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