By Walter L. Johnson II
Unlike last month, the Albany Panthers made Saturday’s game against the Lafayette Wildcatters didn’t come down to one last play, thanks to their defense and receiving corps.
Antwontis Cutts was one of three Panther wideouts to catch touchdown passes in Albany’s 42-26 win over Lafayette at the Albany Civic Center.
Cutts finished the contest with nine catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns, as Albany (4-0) remained the only unbeaten team in the Southern Indoor Football League.
“We had a bad week of practice, so we had to come out and block out a lot of mental stuff out, and just come out and play hard,” Cutts said. “We had one of our star (receivers go) down, so somebody else just had to step up.”
In their April 17 matchup, the Panthers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Wildcatters 70-64. But the May meeting wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The closest Lafayette (1-4) came to handing the Panthers their first loss came early in the game. That’s when Wildcatters starting quarterback Bo Bartik threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Scott. The extra point by Sean Comiskey failed, giving Albany an 8-6 lead with 10:07 to play in the first quarter.
“Our goal was to get a good lead, and just kind of stick with it,” Panthers head coach Lucious Davis said. “It worked out for us, because we didn’t want to get into the battle (we got into) the last time against (Lafayette).”
Clenton Rafe was another key cog in Albany’s latest win, as made seven catches for 70 yards and one touchdown.
“I thought that we came out tonight, and played a good overall game,” Rafe said. “We know that (the Wildcatters) were going to come out, and they were going to try to play their best, because they felt like that they could beat us the last game. But we came out and set the tone early, and our defense played big, and came out with a win.”
The only other occasion the Wildcatters came reduced the deficit to single digits came early in the second half. Bartik threw his second touchdown pass to Antoine Burks with 7:36 remaining in the third quarter. That made the score 22-13.
If there was one negative in an otherwise dominant performance by the Panthers, it was in the penalties department. Albany was penalized 12 times for 79 yards, while Lafayette had five penalties for 31 yards. The disparity in penalties is something that Davis hopes to correct in the coming weeks.
“The good thing is we didn’t turn the ball over this game,” Davis explained. “But I still thought we made a lot a mistake here and there, so we’re going to have to improve on it. We have to improve on it so we can get there next time.”
The Panthers play their next-to-last home game of their inaugural season Saturday against the Louisiana Swashbucklers. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Davis says nothing has really changed in terms of game preparation.
“Pretty much the same way, just watch film, try to make some adjustments, and hopefully we can get another win,” he said.