Panthers Through to National Finals
The Pennine Panthers made their own history at the North and Central Wildcard Playoff Tournament winning all of their games and qualifying for the National Finals, on the 20th September at the Keepmoat Stadium, in their first competitive year!
The Pennine Panthers, having only formed 9 months ago, brought together two inexperienced youth teams representing the Yorkshire Rams and Manchester Enthusiasm Trust (later adding a few Leeds Bobcats players to the fold too). Going 10-2 in the Northern Division regular season, the Panthers finished 3rd overall and qualified for the Wildcard Playoff Tournament along with the Doncaster Mustangs, Tamworth Phoenix and, last year’s National Finalists, the Woodham Warriors. The latter being the only team to beat the Pennine Panthers in the regular season, twice, with a combined score of 90 – 13 in favour of Woodham.
With little in the way of expectation but lots in the way of heart and determination, the Panthers played their first game at the tournament against the unknown quantity of Tamworth Phoenix; going down by a score early on the Panthers had to come from behind and duly obliged. With their tails up the Panthers ran out 26-19 winners before facing their county rivals, the Doncaster Mustangs.
The Mustangs previous game against the Panthers was an extremely close affair with the Panthers only winning by one score in the regular season. The first half ran true to form with the Panthers taking only a slight lead going in at the half at 7-6; the second half was a different story though. The Panthers D held the Mustangs out for all of the second half and eventually ran out comfortable winners with the final score at 26-6.
It was then time to face the mighty, well drilled and experienced Woodham Warriors! Having just seen Tamworth run the Woodham Warriors close the Panthers took inspiration and started to believe. The first drive from Woodham was true to form and they scored their first TD of the game, albeit a hard earned one! The Panthers always knew that the only way they were going to beat Woodham was in a shootout and the Panthers knew they had to score. An absolute bullet of a pass from the Panthers QB, Danny Lester to Robert Duck saw the Panthers draw level and with the Panthers getting a rare stop on Woodham, with a forced fumble and recovery from Matty Napier, the Panthers went 6 points up to take the lead. This was a lead which the Panthers knew they could not give up and they gave everything to stay in front. Going in at the half leading by a single point the Panthers knew they had to keep scoring, and that they did. With only one dropped catch from the Panthers receiving corp all game and a brilliant rushing TD from Vialli Keith, the Panthers kept going in for the 6, but with less than a minute to go Woodham had the ball, knowing that a score and 2pt conversion would see them through to the final. With 4 attempts to get in the endzone, the Woodham Warriors went long on 4th down, only for their receiver to drop the catch which would have seen them score; the Panthers sideline erupted as the Offence took the field to kneel out the game winning 38-31.
A fantastic game for everyone involved and we hope to see everyone at the final.
Pennine Panthers 26 – 19 Tamworth Phoenix
Pennine Panthers 26 – 6 Doncaster Mustangs
Pennine Panthers 38 – 31 Woodham Warriors