Ontario Varsity Football
fall to crosstown rival Myers Riders in Wettges Conference
By Fred Sherwin
Panthers running back Fabrice Mukendi finds
some open ground during the OVFL Wettges Conference
championship game on Saturday. Photo courtesy
of Lynn Gibeault
Cumberland Panthers varsity bantam football team found
out the hard way on Saturday that having the better talent
doesn't always mean you are the better team.
turned out to be the case against the Myers Riders, who
stood between the Panthers and a return trip to the Ontario
Varsity Football League bantam championship game to be
played next weekend in Hamilton.
returning players like quarterback Christian Veilleux,
receivers Josh Ruby and Maxime Dery, running back Fabrice
Mukendi and defenders Justice Koradi and Markaedyn Nelson,
the Panthers were the runaway preseason favourites to
make it back to the title game.
beating out the Riders for first place in the conference
by a single point, the Panthers were poised to prove they
were the best team in the Ottawa area on Saturday, all
they had to do was prove it on the field. That's difficult
to do, however, when your offence is only able to make
three plays in the first quarter and one of them is an
winning the opening coin toss, the Riders elected to start
the game on offence and proceeded to march the ball downfield
for a touchdown and the early 7-0 lead.
Panthers' offence took the field for the first time with
just under five minutes left in the first quarter. They
were headed back to the sidelines three plays later after
they were unable to pick up a first down..
Riders continued to run the ball straight at the Panthers'
defence, chewing up the yardage as well as the clock.
The first quarter ended with them knocking at the door
Panthers did their best to keep the Riders out of the
end zone, but were unable to stop them on fourth and goal
from the two. With the second quarter barely 90 seconds
old, Myers had a 14-0 lead.
Panthers' next series ended after just three plays when
Veilleux threw his first of five interceptions in the
needing to stop the Riders and change the momentum of
the game, the Panthers defence did just that forcing Myers
to punt the ball from just over midfield.
from their nine yard line, Veilleux was able to string
some first downs together using his favourite target Josh
Ruby who picked up 11, 17, 8 and 12 yards to set up a
54-yard bomb to Johnny Aoube to cut the Riders lead in
half with 1:01 left in the second quarter.
than play it safe and run down the clock to get to halftime,
the Riders inexplicably put the ball in the air, allowing
Markaedyn Nelson to make his seventh interception of the
season and give the Panthers some hope.
just 35.5 seconds left in the half, Veilleux came through
once again, connecting with Nolan Meinzinger on the first
play from scrimmage for a 68-yard touchdown pass. William
Bettez second extra point of the game drew the Panthers
even with the Riders despite running just 13 plays the
entire first half.
was a rejuvenated Panther team that took the field in
the second half. They had the Riders, who had six of their
top players playing both ways on offence and defence,
on their heels, and their own offence had finally hit
their stride, or so it seemed.
Panthers were barely on the field when another errant
pass was picked off by the Riders and run back 65 yards
for the pick-6 to put Myers back in front 21-14.
the many miscues, the Panthers were determined to keep
the score close and on their next series they managed
to move the ball down to the Riders' 28-yard line before
disaster struck once again in the form of Veilleux's fourth
INT of the game.
long afterwards, the Riders took advantage of a missed
communication in the Panthers backfield and struck for
a 68-pass over the middle to a wide open receiver who
ran it into the end zone to give the visitors a 27-14
lead with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
Panthers next series ended with yet another interception
which brought the third quarter to an ignominious close.
Still the Panthers weren't about to give up.
the Panther's defence stopped the Riders on successive
series, Veilleux led the offence on an impressive 73 yard
drive using his arm and his legs, culminating in a nine-yard
touchdown pass to Zane Teichroeb. Bettez's third PAT of
the contest would make it a six point game with 5:11 left
in the fourth quarter.
that would be as close as they would get as the Riders
were able to stop them on their next two series to preserve
the win and claim the conference championship.
the game, a dejected Veilleux bravely owned up to his
miscues saying that the loss "was on" him.
needed to make decisions out there. That's on me,"
the 14-year-old quarterback said, forgetting for a moment
that he also threw all three Panther touchdowns.
coach Jeff Koradi summed up the loss in the post game
huddle while giving the Riders their due.
best team doesn't always win. It's the team that plays
best," Koradi told his players. "Today they
played just played better than we did. They got some breaks.
They did good with their breaks and we just didn't. It's
been an outstanding season. I'm very very proud of you.
Hold your heads high and we'll see you next season."
many of the players, "next season" when they
report to their respective NCAFA teams for the upcoming
National Capital minor football season which gets underway
on August 27.
3 p.m., July 31)
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