Panthers advance to OPFL championship game
By Fred Sherwin
Cumberland Panthers bantam varsity team did the unthinkable
on Saturday – they upset the previously undefeated Ottawa
Jr. Sooners and now have the Ontario Provincial Football
League championship in their sights.
Panthers running back Alexander Boily prepares
to take on an Ottawa Jr. Sooners defender
during the East Conference championship at
Keith Harris Stadium on July 14. Fred Sherwin/Photo
Panthers finished the regular season in third place in
the East Conference standings with a 5-3 record. One of
their three losses was a 24-18 defeat at the hands of
the Sooners in week five.
loss dropped the Panthers to 2-3 and on the outside of
the playoff picture looking in. Since then, they’ve won
five in a row including Saturday’s improbable win. One
more and they will be provin-cial champs.
speechless,” said Panthers head coach after the game.
“We’ve been there before, we learned from our mistakes,
and when we found ourselves in the same situation today
we were able to finish it and we came out on top.”
win was a total team effort. A huge goal line stand near
the end of the first half with the Sooners already enjoying
a 6-0 lead would prove pivotal. As would a number of forced
turnovers in the fourth quarter. The special teams came
through with a successful onside kick in the third quarter
that led to the Panthers’ second touchdown. And the offence
was led by running back Khalid Campbell, who put the team
on his back in scoring all three of the Panthers’ touchdowns,
including a 60-yard sprint in the fourth quarter that
gave them the lead for good.
Sooners kicked off the scoring in the second quarter on
a long touchdown run by Andrew Ayrakwa. They had an excellent
chance to add to their lead with a first down on the Panthers’
one yard line before the end of the half, but the Cumberland
defence rose to the challenge and pushed the Sooners backwards
into a field goal situation. The ensuing attempt rattled
off the upright, leaving the deficit at six points.
Panthers came out of the half-time break and immediately
established their ground game, moving the ball 53 yards
on three running plays by Campbell, including a 35-yard
effort that set up the touchdown. Leelen Anthony then
added the extra point to give Cumberland a 7-6 lead.
Panthers managed to catch the Sooners off-guard on the
ensuing kick-off by successfully pulling off an onside
kick. Then, facing third and long, Cumberland quarterback
Wolfi Schad completed a rare pass to Cordel Epale that
went for 39 yards.
pair of runs by Campbell would move the ball inside the
five yard line. A sack and an illegal motion penalty moved
the line of scrimmage back to the 10, setting up a pair
of runs by Campbell including a five-yard touchdown effort
on fourth and goal from the five.
bobbled snap on the point after attempt left the score
at 13-6 in favour of the Panthers.
was forced to concede a safety in the early going in the
fourth quarter to make the score 13-8. Rather than have
the Panthers kick-off, the Sooners elected to take the
ball on their own 35-yard line. A 45-yard pass from Justin
Shibley to Tyler Baigent would set up a 21-yard touchdown
run by Ayrakwa, capped by a two-point conversion toss
from Shibley to Hayden Lynds which briefly gave the Sooners
a 16-13 lead.
took the Panthers just one play to get the lead back.
Campbell took the ball from Schad and then sliced and
diced his way through the Sooners defence for a 60-yard
time winding down, the Sooners inexplicably abandoned
their running game and instead tried to move the ball
through the air.
result was an interception by Justin Belanger -- which
prematurely ended one drive -- and a high snap that resulted
in a fumble recovery by Andrew Christie which sealed the
Sooners fate for good and cemented the win for the Panthers,
who now have a bye week before traveling to Windsor for
the OPFL championship game.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of
our local business partners.)