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NCAFA Football
Bantam Panthers find redemption in A-Cup championship

By Fred Sherwin
The Orleans Star

It’s been a year since an undefeated and highly favoured Cumberland Panthers bantam team was upset in the 2017 A-Cup final by the Kanata Knights, thanks mainly to mistakes of their own making.

A reloaded bantam squad used last year’s disappointing finish to motivate them to another undefeated record this season. The second year players on the team were determined to get back to the A-Cup championship and write a different ending to their campaign, and that they did in a thoroughly dominating performance over the Bell Warriors on Sunday.

Above, members of the Cumberland Panthers pose for a team picture after winning the bantam A-Cup championship on Sunday. Right, Matthew Lavoie runs for a long gain against the Bell Warriors in the 35-0 win. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Despite a slow start that included a 55-yard touchdown pass that was called back due to an offside penalty, the Panthers’ offence was able to finally get untracked late in the first quarter.

After an interception by Brendon Shaw gave them possession on the Warriors’ 52-yard line, the Panthers moved the ball to the 14 thanks to a 28-yard pass from quarterback Zach Cloutier to Dominic Gobuyan. On the very next play, Cloutier threw the ball over the middle into the end zone where it was tipped by Gobuyan into the hands of Shaw, who plays on both offence and defence, for the touchdown. Matthew Lavoie then added the extra point to give the Panthers an early 7-0 lead.

The Panthers defence was tested later in the quarter when the Warriors intercepted an errant pass and ran it down to Cumberland’s 25-yard line.

The Warriors picked up 24 yards on the next play and would have scored if not for a touchdown saving tackle by one of the Panther defenders. Still, the Warriors had a fresh set of downs with only one yard separating them from the end zone.

Determined not to let Bell score, the Panthers defence stopped them on all three attempts with a fourth one thrown in for good measure when they were called for going offside.

Cumberland took over on the own five but were forced to punt when they were unable to get a first down. The result left the Warriors in excellent field position on the Panthers’ 30-yard line where, once again, the Cumberland defence rose to the challenge, sacking Warriors quarterback Caleb Faulkner on two successive plays. Nicholas Seguin dropped him for a loss of nine yards and Jake Teather took him down for another nine yard loss.

The Warriors gained just 55 yards on offence in the first half, half of which came on one play. By comparison the Panthers amassed 213 yards on offence.

The lopsided offensive output was even more glaring in the second half. A 38-yard return on the opening kick off by Schneider Jean-Baptiste gave the Panthers excellent field position on the Warriors’ 32-yard line. After Shaw picked up a first down on an 16-yard run through the middle, the Panthers found themselves with a first and goal on the 10-yard line. Two plays and an illegal procedure penalty later, they faced third and goal from the four.

In an act of seeming desperation, Cloutier heaved the ball over the line into the arms of Dante Spaduccini for what could arguably be the shortest Hail Mary touchdown pass in football history.

The Panthers would score another touchdown in the third quarter on a play action pass from Cloutier to Ethan Wilson that covered 73 yards, and two more in the fourth – the first came on a 29-yard screen pass from Cloutier to Spaduccini, and the second came on a 49-yard pass from Clouthier to Gobuyan which made the final score 35-0.

After the game, Fletcher credited his defence for putting on a stellar perfor-mance, and the offence which put the game away in the second half thanks to the wealth of riches they have in personnel.

“We have so many weapons. I can do anything,” the head coach said without bragging. “I have guys every position on offence that I can dial up.”

The Panthers will need every weapon they have at their disposal this coming Saturday if they want to come out on top in the bantam Inter-provicial Bowl in Montréal and make their season truly perfect.

(Posted Nov. 6, 2018.)

 

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