Varsity Panthers advance to OPFL championship
By Fred Sherwin
Junior Varsity Cumberland Panthers bid to repeat as Ontario
Provincial Football League champions ended in disappointment
on Saturday to a 22-16 loss they suffered at the hands of
the Durham Dolphins in the East Conference championship
Panthers running back Fabrice Mukendi finished
the season with two more touchdowns on the
weekend, giving him 15 for the year and over
1,250 yards. PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD GOULET
Panthers were hoping to build on the momentum they gained
coming out of their 25-18 upset win over the Ottawa Jr.
Senators in the East Conference semi-final last weekend,
but instead they suffered a hangover that saw them fail
to pick up a single first down in the first half against
just weren’t ready to play at the same level as them.
In the end they made the plays and we didn’t, it as simple
as that,” said Panthers head coach Jeff Koradi.
the Sooners was a major accomplisment for us because of
the rivalry, but the intensity we showed in that game
just wasn’t there against Durham.”
was the second time the two teams had played each other
in two weeks. The Dolphins beat the Panthers 25-22 on
June 30, in what was the regular season finale for both
teams. Koradi was hoping the result would be different
on Saturday, but the Dolphins had other plans.
of the lone bright spots for the Panthers was the running
of Fabrice Mukendi who scored both of their majors.
an absolute beast. He was still running his heart out
in the final minute when the result was already a foregone
conclusion,” said Koradi.
two touchdowns gave Mukendi 15 for the season in just
eight games. He missed two games due to an injury. Mukendi
also ran for another 100-plus yards, bringing his season
total to over 1,250 yards.
16-year-old was hoping to win a championship after sitting
out last season.
too bad he never got a chance to lift the Cup, but he’s
going to have a bright future in the sport for sure. He’s
just a very special athlete,” says Koradi.
what the difference was between this year’s squad and
last year’s championship team, Koradi said it came down
to depth and experience.
only had one returning player on defence and he went down
with a season ending injury in week five,” said Koradi,
referring to his son Justice who was the leading tackler
on the team before he broke his arm. “You can’t have that
type of turnover and expect to have the same success.
Still, we did pretty good.”
is uncertain whether he’ll coach the team again next year.
His decision will depend in large part on the new rules
governing the OPFL which allows for 17-year-olds to play
senior varsity with 18- and 19-year-olds.
a big difference between a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old.
It’s like boys against men. There’s a lot of things that
can go wrong,” said Koradi, whose coached many of his
players since they were eight years old playing tyke.
been a good run with a few championships along the way,
but the kids’ priorities begin to change once they hit
17. They have work and girlfriends. Football’s not the
only thing in their lives anymore. So, I guess we’ll see.”
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of
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