Walter L. Johnson II
A different player wore No. 7 at quarterback for the Albany Panthers, but the result still turned out the same: another win.
The Panthers overcame the loss of starting quarterback Cecil Lester, as well as nine penalties for 92 yards and perhaps one of the lowest-scoring first halves in indoor football history, in a 43-35 victory over the Louisiana Swashbucklers at the Albany Civic Center last Saturday.
“Our starting quarterback (Lester) was down, so we had to go our second string quarterback, and had to pick up the slack,” said Antwontis Cutts, who had five catches for 49 yards, and one touchdown.
Andrico Hines — who wore the No. 7 jersey the injured Lester usually wore — completed 12 of 20 passes for 143 yards and four touchdowns to keep Albany (5-0) unbeaten in their inaugural season. Lester is expected to be out of action for at least one more week due to a knee injury.
“It was tough,” Panthers head coach Lucious Davis said about his team’s latest gutsy win. “We just got Andrico (the day before), so he hadn’t had any practice with us, so it was kind of like touch and go. We had to call the play, and tell him what the receivers did, and it was up to him to make the read.”
Jeffrey Aaron — who started at quarterback — had mixed results, as he made seven of 11 pass completions for 28 yards. He also had two rushes for nine yards and one touchdown.
“Jeff started out pretty good at times, but got a little rocky, and we just didn’t want the game to get away,” added Davis.
Both teams struggled offensively, combining for just 17 points in the first half. The Panthers took an 11-6 lead into the locker room. And despite losing two quarterbacks to injury during the game, Louisiana (2-4) still managed to hang tough from start to finish.
Jabari Hendrixs scored on a 14-yard catch from wide receiver turned third-string quarterback Sammy Wright in the early stages of the second half. That score gave the Swashbucklers their only lead of the contest at 12-11 with 10:43 to play in the third quarter.
Louisiana later tied the game at 19 on another Knight pass to Corey Mitchil with less than four minutes to play in the period, followed by a made extra point by Whitley Hillin.
But after Cutts put the Panthers ahead to stay at 26-19 with just over a minute left in the third quarter, an interception by Demetrie McCray helped set up another Hines touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
Hines then tossed a 10-yard pass to Antwone Savage almost four minutes into the final period, giving the Panthers an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish at 33-19.
“That was our game plan,” Davis explained, “to get a lead, and let our defense do what they’ve been doing all season.”
In spite of their recent struggles, Davis says that the Swashbucklers are a better team their record indicates.
“You’ve got to give (the Swashbucklers) credit, though,” Davis said. “They lost both quarterbacks, (and) they (were) in the game, so they’re far from a bad team, they’re very good. They’re still the defending champs of (the Southern Indoor Football League), and our job is we’re trying to de-throne them.”
Clenton Rafe, who led all Panthers receivers with nine catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns, says the Panthers are excited about finally hitting the road for the first time, and facing the Swashbucklers in this weekend’s re-match.
“I think the whole team is real excited about going on the road,” Rafe said. “We’ve been here for the first five games, and everybody is real excited to get a chance to go on the road, and get moving, and all that, and we want just put together a good game, and hopefully come with a win.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Lake Charles, La. is at 8:05 p.m. EDT. Panthers fans with Internet access can follow the action online at www.twitter.com/SIFLFootball