Volume 12 Week 5

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Varsity Football
JV Panthers hang on for division semifinal win over Durham
By Mike Beasley
Orléans Online

With the seconds ticking down in regulation and the Durham Dolphins pressing to put the tying or go ahead points on the scoreboard, Cumberland Panthers head coach Jeff Koradi and assistant, Mike Kendricks were confident their defence wouldn't let them down.

The Panthers defence was really put to the test, especially late in the contest as they held down the fort on two occasions with Cumberland on top of the visiting Durham Dolphins 12-9 in OPFL Junior Varsity East Division semi-final action on Saturday at Millennium Park.

"It was a fantastic game that was decided in the final 90 seconds of regulation," said Koradi. "Our defence has been outstanding all season and it came through once again when we needed them the most."

After three quarters of scoreless football, all 21 points were scored in the fourth stanza. Ryan Licandro scored Cumberland's only touchdown of the game on a quarterback keeper, and Josh Ruby kicked the extra point and scored another point on a punt that the Doplphins failed to get out of the end zone. The Pamthers scored two more points on a safety.

With the Panthers protecting a 12-7 lead late in the fourth quarter, Durham QB Jaden Richards looked to have an open receiver downfield when Panthers DB/wide receiver/kick returner Kevin Victome swept in to intercept the ball around Cumberland's 10 yard line.

A collective sigh a relief was felt throughout the stadium and along the Panthers' sideline. But after going two and out, Cumberland was faced with the decision of kicking the ball back to the Dolphins, or taking a safety which would give Durham two points and a new set of downs starting on their 35 yard line.

Koradi chose wisely by advising his punter to concede the two points and run widely around the Cumberland end zone burning up precious seconds off the clock until he was tackled. The move proved valuable in their efforts to seal the win.

With 54 seconds left on the clock and down 12-9, Durham set up on their 35 yard line, with field goal territory within sight. On their first play, the Dolphins picked up 20 yards on the ground to bring the ball out to midfield which silenced the partisan Panthers crowd.

The nail-biters in the stands received a small break when the Panthers' defence sacked Richards for a five-yard loss. Another play failed to gain Durham any yardage. Facing third and long and with the game on the line, the Dolphins completed a 16-yard pass to pick up the first down.

With the ball at Cumberland's 46 yard line, the Dolphins were still too far away to attempt a field goal so they had to go for it all, through the air, but once again, the Panthers defence stood their ground.

Their first passing attempt fell harmlessly to the ground, their next and final try was intercepted by Justice Koradi as he timed his attack perfectly, cutting in front of a Durham receiver to snag the ball and secure the win for Cumberland.

"Our D won the game for us, they were lights out all game, limiting Durham to one touchdown and coming up really big when needed," said Kendricks, who is the Panthers' defensive co-ordinator.

Like a proud papa bear, Kendricks was glowing after the game, gushing with pride over how well his troops played in the pivotal game. "We spotted Durham a little bit in the fourth quarter. They had us playing on our heels but we stopped them from scoring and executed defensively."

The Panthers will now travel to Burlington on July 30 to take on the Stampeders in the Junior Varsity East Conference Final. Kick-off at Corpus Christi Catholic Secondary School is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Burlington made their way to the Conference final after defeating the Ottawa Sooners 24-17 in the other OPFL Premier (JV) East semi-final.

Cumberland and Burlington met up in Week 3 of the regular season with Burlington coming away with a 38-35 win in an evenly matched game. The Panthers were ahead 35-31 with eight seconds to play in the game, but couldn't hold on for the win as the Stamps cscored late to snatch the victory and break Cumberland's hearts.

(Posted 6:30 p.m., July 27)

 

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