By Eric Tabor
There really is no need for a full recap for the Southern Indoor Football League championship game before a huge, raucous crowd at the Albany Civic Center. It can be summed it up in two words: complete dominance.
The offense, defense and even special teams for the Albany Panthers played outstandingly. This was the reason for the Panthers’ 69-48 blowout win. Albany’s defense forced turnovers and got stops, while the Louisiana Swashbuckler team sputtered like an old jalopy. Let’s put the game into perspective.
Offense: Quarterback Cecil Lester, although he did not have a big day, had 263 yards passing, made a couple of big time throws and good decisions to roll in for scores.
“The receivers are interchangeable,” Panthers head coach Lucious Davis said. “They all do what it takes to win. All of them are able to make big catches, so we try to get it into everyone’s hands.”
Antwone Savage and John Harris caught three TD passes each, Clenton Rafe had two snags in the end zone, and Lester completed 85 percent of his passes. Even lineman Arron Wheeler and fullback Derrick Winbush caught a couple of big touchdown passes. Although this game was not as balanced offensively, both the run and the pass were successful against the physical Louisiana team.
Albany rushed for just over 15 yards. Everyone expected the Panthers to come out conservative in this game, but they did just the opposite. Although the offense didn’t have an outstanding amount of total yards, the play of the defense, and field position helped Albany’s offense pile on the points.
“It was one of those games where everything we called worked,” Davis said.
Defense: The Panthers played the huge Swashbuckler offense tough, and won the battle of rush and pass defense. Albany put pressure on the Swashbuckler QB Sammy Knight all night, and after the Panthers went up 24-13, Louisiana realized that they would have to pass to stay in the game, which is exactly what Tito Hannah and company wanted. Aside from three points being taken from the Panthers to start the second half because of a decision that drop PATs are worth 1 point rather than 2, and the one long drive that Knight put together for a touchdown, Albany’s strategy of making the Swashbuckler beat them through the air worked to perfection.
The inability for Louisiana’s line to push Albany’s front five around kept the Swashbucklers to a low score. Louisiana had no confidence in their quarterback, and actually had no quarterback on the roster as Ben McLaughlin left the team to play for team USA.
The offense and defense were able to keep the crowd excited and into the game with stellar performances. Lionel Bibbins continued his dominance as he got a couple of sacks. Linebacker Corey Rue had a team-high 10 tackles, eight solo, and one sack. Antwontis Cutts got an interception. The defense getting five stops helped the Panthers offense on their way to putting up 68 on the scoreboard.
There is an old saying for a game like this: Jam up, jelly tight! Thus, the Panthers win the SIFL championship and the Presidents Cup.
Albany Panthers’ owner Rod Chappell and general manager Will Carter accept the President’s Cup on Saturday night after capturing the Southern Indoor Football League championship with a 69-48 win over Louisiana at the Albany Civic Center. PHOTO BY ERIC TABOR.