By RENALDO DORSETT
THEIR defence came through when it mattered most and Team Vitamalt claimed the first international flag football tournament title for a Bahamian team with victory at the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association (CIFFA) Invitational I-Cup title on Sunday.
On the final play of overtime, offensive lineman Javaughn Bullard was brought in at defensive tackle and deflected a pass to seal a 13-12 win over the Burger King Panthers at the Ed Bush Sports Centre.
“I always wanted an opportunity to play defence and I know when I had the chance I’d be able to make an impact,” he said. “It was the last play, we had one chance to do it so I went all out. Once I got past the centre I was right in the quarterback’s face, I couldn’t get to the flag so I put my hands up and it worked out for us.”
Rodwell Knowles and Jamal Butler were named the co-tournament MVPs.
The Panthers scored the game-tying touchdown with seconds left to play in regulation and on the ensuing conversion, Knowles came up with the game-saving flag grab inches away from the goalline.
With the score tied at 6-6, team Vitamalt scored first in overtime when Phil Rolle scored on the quarterback sneak.
On the ensuing conversion, Rolle connected with Tecco Rolle to go ahead 13-6.
The Panthers scored on a run from Glen Duran but were unable to convert.
It had been a slow start offensively for both teams in a quickly played first half, neither team scoring before the intermission. In the second half, Phil Rolle connected with Kevin Fox for his fourth touchdown reception of the tournament.
After a failed conversion, they held a 6-0 lead en route to the win.
Team Vitamalt finished the tournament with an unblemished 4-0 record. Three of the four games went into overtime.
Team Vitamalt 12
With a defence that forced two turnovers and an offence that responded with two touchdown passes, Team Vitamalt opened tournament play in the Cayman Islands on a winning note.
Thomas Wildgoose picked off Hellcats quarterback Woodrow Ebanks twice, including on the opening drive to set the tone for the remainder of the game.
“We have a deep secondary and we knew that was our strength. It took us a few plays to pick up on their tendencies, but once we did it was just a matter of being in the right spot to make the play,” Wildgoose said.
Jayson Clarke connected on two touchdown passes, one to Phil Rolle and another to Kevin Fox. Following the Wildgoose interception, Clarke engineered a 60-yard drive capped by a screen pass to Rolle for the score and a 6-0 lead. Fox’s touchdown reception came late in the second half to put the game away.
“We’re used to scoring so we just have to act like we’ve been there before,” Fox said. “This was just win one, we know we have a lot of work to do, so we set our minds out to going out there and executing.”
Defensive Co-ordinator turned player coach, Tito Bethel, came out of retirement to lead the team with four flag grabs.
“The mind is always ready it’s getting the body where the mind is. They were in sync today so I was able to have a good game,” Bethel said. “The shutout was easier than I thought and we were able to read what they were doing. It worked out well for us so we just want to keep this momentum going into game two.”
Team Vitamalt 22
BK Panthers 21
After a slow start, every break went right for Team Vitamalt as they moved to 2-0 with a thrilling come from behind win over the top-ranked team in the Cayman Islands.
Phil Rolle connected with Jamal Butler for the go-ahead two point conversion in overtime to clinch victory over the Burger King Panthers.
After an interception on his opening drive, Rolle settled in to throw two touchdowns and engineered clutch drives down the stretch. Rolle was picked off but threw touchdowns to Kevin Fox and Tecco Rolle.
With 1 min 17 sec left to play, the Panthers had an opportunity to seal the win with a field goal but it was blocked, giving the visitors an opportunity to come back. With Team Vitamalt trailing 14-7 in the game’s waning moments, Rolle targeted Butler near the end zone but the ball deflected off his hands, fortunately into the hands of Tecco Rolle.
Ranell Lundy added the rushing touchdown in overtime.
Team Vitamalt 19
For the second consecutive game, Team Vitamalt won in an overtime thriller and advanced to the finals.
Jayson Clarke connected with Kevin Fox for the game tying touchdown in overtime and followed with a successful conversion to Jamal Butler for the go ahead score in the semi-finals.
The win kept Team Vitamalt undefeated for the tournament and set up a rematch with the top-ranked team in the CIFFA, the Burger King Panthers.
Clarke finished with three touchdown passes on the day, but was also intercepted three times by the Hellcats defence. Peter Wilson Jr recorded two sacks while Ranell Lundy and Rodwell Knowles caught interceptions for team Vitamalt.
Butler caught his second game winning conversion in as many days and caught six receptions and a touchdown on the afternoon.
“All game we noticed the screen was there, the blockers were blocking really well and I was very fortunate to be able to take advantage of that,” he said, “It was one of those games where I was in the zone and I was just glad I was able to help my team advance and have a chance to bring home the title.”
After a lacklustre opening drive, a botched punt by Team Vitamalt placed the Hellcats in immediate scoring position and they capitalised with a touchdown pass to take a 6-0 lead. After the Hellcats forced a turnover, Knowles responded with an interception.
Clarke connected with Ryan Meadows for the game-tying score and Butler took a screen pass nearly 60 yards on the ensuing drive for a 12-6 lead. The Hellcats converted a turnover into a game tying score midway through the second half.
What would have been Butler’s second touchdown with under a minute left to play was negated by a holding penalty and the game went into overtime.