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Junior Varsity Football
Struggling Panther defence fails to stop Burlington Stampeders
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Cumberland running back Marvin Simba is tackled by two Burlington defenders during Saturday's game between the Panthers and the Stampeders. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It's a good thing the Ontario Provincial Football League season is eight weeks long because it could take that long for the Cumberland Panthers junior varsity team to whip themselves into shape after losing their first two games of the season.

While the Panthers' offence didn't look like world beaters against the Burlington Stampeders at Millennium Park on Saturday, they did manage to put 35 points on the board led by wide receiver and kick returner Kevin Victome's trio of touchdowns.

But in the end it was their lack of timely defensive stands and missed tackles that cost the Panthers as they were edged 38-35 by the visiting team.

"We (Cumberland) showed our team character and kept fighting the entire game but we can't keep making mistakes against good teams and expect to win," said Panthers' head coach Jeff Koradi.

One of the mistakes Koradi was talking about included an 85-yard Burlington kick-off return by Liam Keary right after Cumberland wide receiver Kevin Victome electrified the hometown crowd when he and quarterback Ryan Licandro hooked up for 78 yard scoring play to put the Panthers up 7-3 midway through the second quarter.

Keary's return gave the Stampeders a 10-7 lead, quickly putting an end to the Cumberland touchdown celebration.

The Panthers regrouped and struck again with time running out in the second frame as Victome worked his magic once again when he scampered 93 yards through the entire Burlington defence on what originally looked like a botched punt return.

"I saw the ball sail over my head and turned to pick it up as fast as I could," Victome recalls. "Once I picked it up I looked for some holes and kept running until I reached the end zone."

The Panthers (0-2) managed to survive the first half with a 14-10 lead but the third quarter proved to be somewhat of a challenge for the local boys.

Cumberland running back Marvin Simba hurdles over two Burlington defenders during third quarter action in Saturday's game between the Panthers and the Stampeders. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The Stampeders took the lead early in the third quarter on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Keagan Hall to Keary, who ended the game with 343 total yards and three touchdowns, the third of which was scored on a 57-yard run throught the Panthers' defence to give the Stampeders a 24-14 lead.

The Panthers cut the deficit to three points on a 48-yard run by Marvin Simba late in the third quarter, but any chance of a comeback were quickly

extinguished when the Stampeders special teams came up with their second block punt of the game that set up an eight play, 55-yard drive, capped by a one-yard run by Sito Berrio on the opening play of the fourth stanza.

Trailing 31-21, the Panthers' offence was able to responded with a 67-yard drive of their own, culminating in a 15-yard touchdown toss from Licandro to Simba.

Unfortunately, the Panthers defence failed to come up with a stop when they needed it most and a couple of missed tackles and a blatant horse collar penalty led to the Stampeders fifth major of the game on a six-yard pass from Hall to Reid Matthew.

Both teams exchanged possessions a couple of times before a third highlight reel run by Victome put Cumberland in scoring position in the last minute of play. Licandro hit Victome in the end zone for the Franco Cité student's third major of the game, but it proved to be too little too late as time ran out, giving Burlongton the win.

"In the end, we lost the game but I liked our character," said Koradi. "Going 0-2 is never fun but we know we need to get to practice and get better."

This is unfamiliar territory for the Panthers' head coach who guided alast year's bantam team to the Ontario Varsity Football League semi-finals. This year the Cumberland Panthers Football Club decided to make the jump to the fledgling OPFL along with seven other former OVFL teams.

Besides the stiffer competition, the junior varsity team has also lost the services of last year's starting quarterback Christian Veilleux and all-star running back Fabrice Mukendi who both opted to join an Ottawa-area development program and are expected to play high school ball in the fall.

The task for Koradi's troops will not get any easier when they travel to Durham on Sunday, June 4to take on the Dolphins (2-0). Game time is 3:30 at Pine Ridge Secondary School.

In other OPFL action on Saturday, the Panthers' Premier Varsity team beat Burlington 39-12 on the shoulders of quarterback Alex Lawrie who completed 15 of 23 passes foe 232 yards and four touchdowns.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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