The Albany Panthers might be considered the best team in the Southern Indoor Football League, but head coach Lucious Davis thinks they don’t deserve that title, at least not yet.
The Panthers overcame numerous penalties, turnovers, and a 15-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Lafayette (La.) Wildcatters in a thriller, 70-64, at the Albany Civic Center lon Saturday.
“(Wildcatters head coach Skip) Foster says we’re the best team in the league,” Davis said, “but I doubt it. I don’t even put that on us, because we don’t even play like the best team in the league.”
Albany (2-0) struggled from the opening kickoff, as the Wildcatters scored the game’s first eight points.
Lafayette got the game’s first point on the “Uno” rule, then gave up seven more points after a Panther turnover in the game’s opening moments.
The Wildcatters led 8-0 with just under 11 minutes to play in the first quarter, thanks to a pass completion from starting quarterback Bo Bartik to Tony Burks.
But it was a seesaw battle for the remainder of the first half, as both teams traded the lead back and forth. Quarterback Cecil Lester connected with Clenton Rafe on a touchdown pass in the end zone as time expired. That gave the Panthers a 40-36 halftime lead.
Lafayette (0-2) scored 19 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 55-40 lead. But a three-yard touchdown run by Derrick Winbush, followed by an ensuing two-point conversion, pulled the Panthers to within seven points at 55-48 with less than two minutes to play in the period.
Albany stayed within striking distance in the fourth quarter, as the Panthers trailed by as much as 10 points early in the final period.
But the real turning point in the contest came with less than five minutes to play in regulation. That’s when the Panthers blocked a critical extra point after the Wildcatters scored on a Bartik to Clyde Edwards touchdown pass. That made the score 64-56 in Lafayette’s favor.
Albany scored the game’s final 14 points down the stretch, thanks to a strong stand by the Panther defense. The eventual game-winning touchdown came with 45.7 seconds on a two-yard bootleg by Lester. A two-point conversion led to the eventual final six-point margin.
“We’re very resilient,” a relieved Lester re-acted after the hard-fought win. You keep fighting. You go through trials and tribulations just like in life, things happen.”
Lester added: “We started out on fire, (and) then we cooled down there, and we’ve got to work on that. But it’s a fourth quarter game, and we pulled through.”
As they prepare for their next home game against the Greenville (S.C.) Force at the Civic Center on Sunday, Davis stressed that the Panthers have to work harder to cut down on the miscues if they want to start the 2010 season 3-0.
“I’m pleased with the win, but I’m not pleased with our effort,” said Davis. “We can’t turn the ball over that many times, and expect to win a game.”