8 a.m., July 30)
show their mettle in OPFL championship loss
By Fred Sherwin
The Orleans Star
been a season to remember for the Cumberland Panthers
bantam varsity team. They didn’t win the top prize, but
that hardly matters looking back in retro-spect. They
did make the championship game, which they lost 28-14
to a very good Essex Ravens team, but more importantly
they pulled off one of the Ontario Provincial Football
League upsets of the year in downing the Ottawa Sooners
in the East Conference final.
offensive lineman Justin Muhlig (59) tries
to create a hole for running back Khalid Campbell
during the fourth quarter of the OPFL Bantam
Varsity championshio game on June 28. Fred
game was the defining moment in a season in which the
Panthers lost three of their first five games. But three
straight wins in the final three regular season games,
including a 28-0 win over the Durham Dolphins in the regular
seasib finale, saw them finish in third place in the East
Conference standings ahead of the very same Dolphins.
beating the Burlington Stampeders – who had only loss
once in the regular season – in the semi-final, the Panthers
managed to knock off the previously undefeated Sooners
after the Sooners had already booked their hotel room
for the OPFL final in Windsor and were charging $10 at
the gate to help pay for the trip.
Panthers quarterback Colin Doherty tries to
fend off an Essex Ravens tackler during the
OPFL Championship game. Fred Sherwin/Photo
Saturday’s championship game, the Panthers’ defence played
like lions limiting the Essex Ravens to just 93 yards
in total yards in the first half. The only hiccup the
Panthers made was in allowing Essex receiver Brodie Kowtiuk
to get behind the secondary for a 53 touchdown pass from
quarterback Rhys Staley.
play followed the Panthers’ first touchdown which came
off a broken play in which a missed hand-off resulted
in a 66-yard touchdown scramble by Cumberland quarterback
botched extra point by the Ravens had them trailing 7-6.
most eventful play of the first half came during the Panthers’
opening series when their leading running back Khalid
Campbell rolled his ankle and was relegated to the sidelines
for the remainder of the half and most of the third quarter.
Campbell eventually did get back in the game he was far
from 100 per cent. During his absence, the Panthers had
difficulty moving the ball. They did manage to get a pair
of first downs in the first half, but both of them came
on fourth down with less than a yard to go. More telling
is the fact that their longest play from scrimmage, besides
the 66-yard touchdown run that came on a broken play,
covered just eight yards.
situation wasn’t much better in the second half in which
the Panthers averaged just 2.6 yards per play against
a very stingy Ravens defence.
lone highlight for Cumberland was an 85-yard punt return
for a touchdown by Jaylen Guy.
Ravens offence managed to find some success in the second
half thanks in large part to Jaydon Bush. After only getting
the ball twice in the first half, Bush carried the ball
eight times in the second half for 64 yards and a pair
of touchdowns against a Panther defence that was growing
more tired with each series. For his efforts, Bush was
named the game’s MVP.
the disappointing loss, Panthers’ head coach Sean Baptiste
tried to put the game in perspective for his players.
game doesn’t define who you are. It doesn’t define the
season we had. It doesn’t take away the things we accomplished,”
said Baptiste. “That’s life. Sometimes you win and sometimes
you lose and that’s part of the lesson we learn. I’m proud
of every single one of you. We win as a family and we
lose as a family.”
two teams get to play in the final,” Baptiste added during
a post game interview with The Star. “One is going to
win and one is going to lose. And that’s why you lay it
on the line for. Unfortunately we lost but the kids are
going to learn from this and they will be better for it.”
Cumberland Panthers gather for a team photo
with the OPFL finalist banner they earned
by winning the East Conference title game.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)
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