What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time the Cumberland Panthers Football Club was celebrating not one, but two NCAFA A-Cup championships after they went 2-for-3 in the A-Cuo finals. Skip ahead a year and the results are much different.
The Panthers went into the 2019 A-Cup finals on Sunday hoping for a potential repeat of last year's success, or at least one title. Instead, they came away empty handed after losing all three championship games they were involved in at the tyke, mosquito and bantam levels.
| The Cumberland Panthers running backs like Gabriel Gauthier (above) had a hard time finding open space against a stingy Cornwall Wildcats defence that allowed just four first downs in the NCAFA A-Cup final. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
The tyke team were the greatest underdogs on the day as they faced an undefeated Cornwall Wildcats team whose average margin of victory this year was 52 points and in their only previous meeting this year the Wildcats beat the Panthers 60-14.
The Wildcats were also motivated by revenge. When the two clubs met in last year's tyke final, the Panthers .
Sunday's result went pretty much as predicted. The Wildcats scored early and scored often. By the end of the first quarter they already enjoyed a 28-0 lead. By the end of the first half they were uo 40-8. They would add 24 more points in the second half, despite the fact it was played under running time which meant the clock kept running even when there were stoppages in the play itself.
In the mosquito final between the Panthers and the Kanata Stallions, the Panthers were hoping to reverse the result of their previous two regular season meetings which the Stallions won 27-25 and 38-34.
| Cumberland Panthers quarterback Shiloh Mukendy gallops through the Kanata Stallions defence on his way to one of his four touchdowns in Sunday's NCAFA mosquito A-Cup championship. Unfortuately it was not enough as the Panthers lost the game by a score of 30-24. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
Very little separated the two teams which were lead onto the field by their respective quick strike threats... Shiloh Mukendy for the Panthers and Nananjeet Auluk for the Stallions, Both young men would play a key role in the final, but in the end it would the Panthers inability to cash in on their two-point convert attempts that proved to be the difference. While the Stallions converted three of their four touchdowns, the Panthers could only successfully kick a two-point convert once on four tries. The three missed converts equalled the six point spread in the final score.
After going 0-for-two in the earlier games, the Panthers championship hopes fell on the shoulders of the club's bantam team which faced Myers Riders in the final game of the day. Both teams were 7-1 during the regular season, with the Riders only loss coming against the Panthers on Sept. 14.
The Panthers were hoping for a repeat performance in Sunday's final, instead the weather and some untimely miscues would conspire against them.
A mix of hail and rain from earlier in the day, slowed down what is normally a fairly quick artificial turf at the Nepean Sportsplex. The rain started up again just as the game got underway which made handling the ball a dicey affair, especially for a Panthers team
which depended on a balanced attack.
After both teams turned the ball over on downs to start the game, the Riders managed to put together three running plays to score the game's first touchdown.
The Panthers responded with a 27-yard field goal by Jake Henderson early in the second quarter before disaster struck. Working from the shotgun, Panthers quarterback Nick Beauvais lost the handle on a low snap resulting in a turnover which was picked up by the Stallions' Jonas Pasian who rumbled 64 yards into the end zone to extend Kanata's lead to 14-3.
The Stallions would add two more touchdowns before halftime. The first was scored on a 27-yard screen pass from Justin Shibley to Charles Asselin. The second came on a pick six by Evan McDonald.
Plagued by a slippery ball which nullified their shotgun offence and lead to trio of turnovers, the Panthers were unable to get untracked the entire game and suffered the consequences.
Despite their misfortune in the A-Cup finals, the Panthers can still look back on another successful season in which all five of their teams made it to the A-Cup semi-finals and three came with a win from hoisting the Cup.
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