LONDON, Ont. – The Western Mustangs football program officially welcomed 30 new players into the family on Thursday afternoon at
OVFL: Varsity Cumberland Panthers off to 1-0 start
OVFL: Varsity Cumberland Panthers off to 1-0 startadmin0 Comments
After grabbing a “W” in the inaugural game of the 2012 season the Cumberland Panthers are hoping to build some momentum and improve from week to week.
After suffering a season-ending loss to cross-town rivals, Myers Riders, in the OVFL 2011 semi-finals, the Cumberland Panthers’ varsity squad is looking to take a step forward this summer.
“We are looking forward to improving on last year’s 5-3 regular season record,” says team head coach Scott Westlake, who notes the youth of this year’s squad. “Our 2011 team was young and we will be no different in 2012.”
Though the Panthers are undeniably a green group, the team welcomes back 20 veterans who will be instrumental in executing the improvement initiative in 2012.
Among the 20 returnees are linebacker Daniel Tshmiala, a St. FX commit, running back John Funston, receivers Denis Gagne and Michael Black, defensive back Riley Baines, and signal callers Darcy Lavoie and Mathew O’Connor.
In addition to improvement via collective experience, the Panthers are also hoping to get a boost from an influx of rookie talent, which will be spread over 34 roster members.
First year contributors include defensive backs Tunde Adeleke and Nathaniel Hamlin, D-lineman Patrick Keuni, running back Devin Brazeau, and offensive lineman Stephane Tanguay.
These five first years are but the tip of the iceberg for a talent-laced group of rookies defined by coach Westlake as “Excellent athletes and playmakers.”
While there is little question that the talent to win is there, Westlake knows that it is the little things that will determine the success of the team, as well as the individuals who comprise the unit.
“We began our season with indoor sessions on February 12 with a commitment to win through preparing our athletes to all be able to make the step up to CIS/NCAA football following their time with us. By focusing on the fundamentals of position play, instilling system concepts that match the skills of our players, and always executing at a high level we are confident we will achieve our objectives.”
The ultimate objective for the Panthers in 2012 is, according to Westlake, “to be the Wettges conference representative in the OVFL Championship on August 18.”
The team took the first step in achieving that goal last week with a season-opening win over the Markham Raiders.
After getting out to a 21-3 halftime lead highlighted by two touchdowns from wideout Michael Black, drops and penalties halted Cumberland’s offensive momentum. Fortunately, the defensive unit remained strong, thwarting Markham’s attempts to spring a comeback.
The final score of the game was 28-3 in favour of Cumberland.
“Game 1 without a preseason game is always a chance to learn about your team and while we did not see perfect execution for 60 minutes we saw a lot of good things in all areas of our team,” notes Westlake.
“The focus going forward is fix our mistakes and to refine our execution. With cross-town rival Myers coming to us next weekend we know we need to play a more consistent game to be successful. The 2012 Varsity Panthers are confident we can get there.”
The Panthers will take on the Riders this Saturday.