Five weeks into the 2019 Cayman Islands Flag Football Association season and both defending league champions have already suffered a loss at the hands of last year’s runner-ups.
After handing the Burger King Panthers (4-1) their first loss in over a year in a 24-10 week four victory, the Uncle Clem’s Wolves trounced Maples 27-0 in week five to improve to 3-2.
“We’ve put up 20-plus points two weeks in a row, so we are on a roll,” said quarterback Jordan Stubblefield. “Beating BK was huge. It got the proverbial monkey off our back. That being said, I feel like we are now the team to beat this year.”
The rivalry was rekindled in week one when the Panthers defeated the Wolves 24-21.
Last year, the Panthers won their second straight CIFFA men’s title with an unblemished record of 14-0. The two teams have met in the finals the last two years, while many members of Uncle Clem’s played on the 2016 champion Island Heritage Predators squad that beat the Miller Lite Hellcats 7-0.
However, after five weeks of football, the teams are looking equal once again. Even with the Wolves recent streak of offense, they have totaled 88 points for the season, compared to the Panthers 75. Last year’s men’s final proved to be a defensive battle with Panthers edging the Wolves 10-7 en route to back-to-back titles.
With only four games left in the regular season, Stubblefield says his team is poised to change their fortune.
“We have always played them close, but never being able to finish them off,” he said. “We did that, plus some, a few weeks ago.”
On the women’s side, the Greenhouse Lynx (3-2) knocked off their longtime rival and reigning three-time women’s champions HSM Vipers (4-1) in a 6-0 victory. The two sides have met in the women’s final the last three years, however, this was the first time the Lynx have beaten the Vipers since the semifinals of the 2015 season. Four years ago, the Vipers were known as the ‘HSM Panthers’ until they joined forces with ‘Zulu’ to field the current team the past two years.
“We came out prepared,” said Lynx wide receiver Marleena Smith. “We trained hard and came out focused as a unit and dominated the game, which is how we came out with the winning result.”
Scoring for the Lynx was running back Shenel Gall. The playmaker has suited up for both the Vipers and Lynx the past four years, settling on the Lynx in 2019 after playing a key role on the Vipers offense last year. Gall says the change came out of a desire to create more competition in the league.
“One of the reasons I returned to Lynx this year was I was looking for new challenge,” said Gall. “I’ve won so much with HSM and I think it was just a time for a change. Another reason why I left was I think it would’ve gave the league another look. More the competition a little bit more different and exciting. I must admit the teams are a lot more competitive this year. By far the most interesting season so far.”
Last year, the Lynx were the only team to tie the Vipers last year in both an undefeated regular and postseason run.
“It was a close game, 0-0 until the last minute,” said Vipers quarterback Lisa Malice. “They ended up scoring after an interception, and then a tackling call that got them down to the 5-yard line. We were missing a few of our starting players, but hopefully we get them next time. I think the loss was good for our team. I hope it humbles some of our players and makes us work a little harder.”
Although the Lynx have welcomed the dynamic Gall back to the offense, Smith says a collective effort will be key in knocking off the Vipers dynasty this year.
“Shenel is an asset to our team, however, I do believe we have what it takes to conquer the league this season as a unit,” she said. “Once focused and prepared, we can ultimately achieve the goal of winning the championship of 2019 and hopefully for the coming years.”
View all the league stats here.
1st: Panthers (4-1)
2nd: Wolves (3-2)
3rd: Maples (2-3)
4th: Hellcats (1-4)
1st: Vipers (5-1)
2nd: Wolverines (4-2)
3rd: Lynx (3-2)
4th: Jaguars (1-4)
5th: Sharks (1-5)