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(Rick Hickman / American Press)

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Panthers hold on for win over Swashbucklers

Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 11:37 PM

Special to the American Press

ALBANY, Ga. — As two-time defending champions, the Albany Panthers knew they’d have a target on their back from the season opener.

No matter their opponent’s previous record, every team in the Professional Indoor Football League would be itching for its shot to knock them down a peg.

With that said, it was no surprise to them that the Louisiana Swashbucklers felt the same way; the Bucs jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first half, and didn’t seem to miss a beat afterward. However, the Panthers’ defense made plays when it mattered, and played a huge role in a 45-42 win.

On the subsequent possession after taking their first lead on a Trae Ivory touchdown run, Tito Hannah sacked Chris Mitchell in the end zone to give the Panthers a 38-34 lead with 6:45 left in regulation. After retaining possession, the Panthers drove downfield, milking the clock and icing the game as Cecil Lester plunged in from the goal line with 42 seconds left on the clock.

Despite the first two quarters, each filled with miscommunication, mental errors, and miscues, the Panthers got it together thanks in part to a drive that went the length of the field in less than 10 seconds. The drive was capped with a Mere Trout field goal that cut the Swashbucklers’ lead to 21-14 at the break.

However, the Panthers weren’t on their heels for long. Two plays into the second half, Hannah sacked and stripped the ball from Mitchell, giving the Panthers the ball at the 4-yard line. From there, Lester connected with John Harris to level the playing field.

But the Bucs’ passing attack had their sights set on upstaging the home team. Jordan Rideaux and Mitchell traded blows with Lester and Harris all night; the visitors connected seven times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Harris caught eight passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Johnny Lester caught seven passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Though both passing offenses were effective, the efforts of both teams running backs cannot be understated. The Bucs’ Kenneth Perry grounded out 37 tough yards and two touchdowns. Trae Ivory added a touchdown of his own.

Lester finished with 262 yard passing.

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