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NCAFA Minor Football
Bantam Panthers salvage rough weekend for east end football club
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Cumberland Panthers running back Jackson Bennett tries to pick up some tough yardage against the Kanata Knights in one of two NCAFA A-Cup semi-finals on Sunday. Fred Sherwin/Photo


There was very little to celebrate in Pantherland on the weekend as three Cumberland Panther football teams had their seasons end early, leaving only the bantam squad which managed to qualify for the B-Cup championship.

The weekend started out with a disappointing result in the tyke A-Cup semifinal which the Panthers lost 24-22 to the Nepean Redskins thanks largely to a disastrous third quarter in which the Panthers fumbled three snaps, two of which were turned into Redskin touchdowns.

By the end of the quarter, the Panthers found themselves trailing 18-6. They managed to narrow the deficit to 18-14 early in the fourth stanza on a five yard touchdown toss from Mathieu Franche to Connor Gunn, but the Redskins came right back with their fourth major of the game to go up by 10.

The Panthers added a touchdown and a two point convert late in the game to make the score close, but by then the damage had already been done. Daniel Mellon ended the game with a pair of touchdowns including a long kick return and Bryson Michel kicked a pair of two point converts.

As a new day dawned over Millennium Park on Sunday, the Panthers mosquito team was hoping to bounce back from last weekend's quarterfinal shutout loss to the Bell Warriors as they prepared to face the Gloucester South Raiders in the B-Cup semi-finals.

The game was over almost before it started, however, when Panthers starting quarterback Kurt Henneberry was forced to the sideline with an ankle injury midway through the first quarter. Prior to his exit, the Panthers had picked up just one first down. It would be the only first down they would get the entire game.

Despite the lack of offense, the Panthers still managed to keep the score close through the first two quarters and at half-time the score was only 8-0 in favour of the Raiders.

They even managed to dodge a bullet in the opening moments of the second half when the Raiders failed to take advantage of a Panthers turnover on the opening kickoff.

The Panthers luck would run out two series later when the Raiders managed to pick off an errant pass and promptly marched the ball into the end zone to take a 16-0 lead.

In a pivotal moment during the Cumberland Panthers 30-16 loss to the Kanata Knights in the NCAFA A-Cup peewee semi-final on Sunday, Panthers running back Jaylen King is stripped of the ball by a Knight defender. Fred Sherwin/Photo


The Panthers continued to self destruct during the Raiders next series when they took a pair of flagrant face mask penalties allowing Gloucester South to march the ball 51 yards on four plays to go up 22-0.

The visitors would add another touchdown off a Panthers turnover midway through the fourth quarter to make the final score 30-0. Dawson Ftorek led the way for the Raiders with a touchdown and three two-point conversions. His brother Milan also had a touchdown as did Daniel Erron and Byron Flowers.

After two disappointing losses, the Panthers lone remaining hope to reach the A-Cup finals rested with the club's peewee team which was looking to avenge their only loss of the season against the Kanata Knights in the A-Cup semifinals

The game got off to a rather ominous start when the Knights made the Panthers pay for a fumble on their opening series with a eye-opening 80-yard touchdown run by #25 Brad Hills on their first play from scrimmage.

They then scored two points on the convert when they faked the kick and passed the ball instead to take an early 8-0 lead.

The Panthers responded two series later when Jaylen King capped a 50-yard, four play drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Tyrone Pierre then scored on a sweep for the two-point convert to tie the game at 8-8.

The Panthers took the lead in the second quarter on a two yard run by King and another two point convert by Pierre. The Knights came right back with another impressive drive highlighted by a 45-yard dash by Hills. A botched convert attempt, however, would leave the Panthers ahead 16-8 at half-time.

The score remained close until the fourth quarter when a critical turnover by the Panthers on their six yard line would give the Knights the opening they were looking for.

Prior to the turn of events, the Panthers defence had come up huge in stopping the Knights on three straight plays after Mills had ripped off another 80-yard run to give Kanata a first down on Cumberland's 15-yard line.

Rather than go for it on third down, the Knights lined up to attempt a 17-yard field goal that would have given them a one point lead, but the ball never left the ground and Cumberland recovered it on the three yard line.

The Panthers were hoping to pick up one or two first downs and run some time off the clock when the Knights managed to rip the ball out of King's hands to set up their go ahead touchdown.

The Knights would add a converted touchdown in the dying moments of the game to make the final score 30-16.

With his players struggling to hold their heads up, Panthers head coach Chris Molinski did his best to put the loss in perspective.

"Sometimes the football gods smile on you and sometimes they don't, but the kids played their hearts out today. They did all they could. Unfortunately things didn't go our way today," said Molinski.

The Panthers last chance to play for a cup rested on the shoulders of the club's bantam team which was coming off a tough 27-0 loss to the Nepean Redskins last week. Their opponents were the Cornwall Wildcats who they lost 19-16 to in Week 1.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers finally got on the scoreboard early in the second stanza on a 20 yard pass from #7 to Ben Raymond that capped a seven play, 33-yard drive.

The Panthers would added two more converted touchdowns before the end of the quarter to take a 21-0 half-time lead. Emerson Curran scored Cumberland's second touchdown and Ryan Donohue added the third major.

Uyo Akram increased the Panthers' lead to 28-0 in the third quarter and then followed up Curran's second touchdown of the game in the fourth with his second major to make the final score 41-0. It was the Panthers largest margin of victory this season.

Cumberland will be hoping for a repeat performance when they take on the Bell Warriors in the B-Cup championship on Saturday. The Warriors made short work of the North Gloucester Giants in Sunday's other B-Cup semifinal, winning 26-0.

"Today we did everything we had to do to win the game," Panthers head coach Bob Wojick said after the big win. "We kept our composure really well despite of a few cheapshots that were thrown our way, which showed a lot of discipline and we managed to bounce back after an early fumble."

As for their next opponent, Wojick says the Warriors' 4-4 record belies the fact that they played in a very competitive division and are likely a lot better than their schedule would suggest.

"Bell's going to be a very good opponent. We're going to have to come ready to play and we're going to have to execute a lot better than we did today. We're not going to be able to take any plays off," said Wojick.

(Posted 5:30 p.m., Oct. 27)

 

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