New England Football League Panthers Win a Thriller for Third | New England Football League
New England Football League

Panthers Win a Thriller for Third

Jason Manson sparked the Panthers victory

MERIDEN, CT After 6 different lead changes, Jason Manson’s winning touchdown pass gave the Connecticut Panthers a 34-27 victory against the Rhode Island Wardogs. It’s the Panthers first Colonial Conference Championship since 2014 and their third in team history. “We got a little from all three parts of the team,” said Coach Mark Welch. “The team stayed calm and confident throughout and pulled it out in the end.”

The opening possession of the game saw Jamie Bryant at quarterback for the Panthers. “There’s nobody who can set a tone better that Rocket,” said Welch, “he always plays well in big games and tonight was no different.” After a few first half runs, Bryant threw a 25 yard pass into the waiting arms of receiver Kevin Sylvester for the first score of the game. “Teams have to respect the run with Rocket; they come up and he can make them pay with his arm.”

The Wardogs offense however would not be denied. Jeff Costa took the Wardogs right down the field in his first possession and found Chris Walshy for a 7 yard scoring catch. The extra point by Francesco Giusti gave the Wardogs a 7-6 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Panthers kept the ball on the ground with former UCONN star Andre Dixon. Dixon found the end zone with 4 minutes to play in the half. Costa then connected on a scoring pass to James Suber as the half expired with the Wardogs holding on to a 14-12 lead.

Jeff Costa’s championship game performance was record-breaking

The Panthers defense did stiffen in the third quarter. After collecting 53 yards in the first half, Wardogs leading rusher John Anderson was held to 22 yards the balance of the game. Big plays from defenders Ben Compton, Josh Rhodes, and Keith Hunter kept the Wardogs out of the end zone in the third quarter. Inserted after the first few possessions, Jason Manson started to warm up after intermission. Going 4 for 4 in the third quarter, Manson found Bryant in the back of the end zone for a one-handed touchdown grab that sent the crowd in a frenzy. A converted pass to LJ Colon on the to-point conversion gave the Panthers a 20-14 lead heading into the final period.

The Wardogs placed the game on the shoulders of Costa. The MVP candidate had a record-breaking performance as he collected 364 yards in the air. His top target was Marquim Monroe who finished the night with 216 receiving yards. “They were unstoppable tonight,” said a Wardogs fan. “Costa would throw it up and Monroe just kept making catch after catch.” A touchdown pass to Keenan Thompson gave the lead back to the Wardogs halfway through the fourth period. Manson then brought the Panthers down to find Colon for a scoring pass as they regained the lead again. “You started to feel that whomever had the ball last would win the game.”

A Costa incompletion brought up a 4th and long situation for the Wardogs. A turnover on down would of returned the ball back to the Panthers with less than five minutes to play. With the defense draped on Monroe, Costa placed a well-thrown fade to Elliott Wright for the go ahead score with just minutes to play. “It was a gutsy throw to say the least; he showed he is the best in the game tonight.”

A perfect toss by the Wardogs may have given the Panthers too much time in regulation to make a play. Where most teams would panic and start throwing the ball in desperation, the Panthers stuck to their game plan and ran the ball against the worn down defensive line of the Wardogs. Runs by Kevin Woolfolk and Dixon as time was running out both frustrated and tired out the Wardogs. Woolfolk collected 33 yards on the drive including a 7 yard plunge that gave the Panthers the ball on the seven yard line with 20 seconds to play. “The entire stadium felt the Panthers would hand the ball off and run it in but they had another thought in mind. Down by a point, Manson pulled the ball out of the running backs arms and delivered a strike to Sylvester for the biggest play of the season. A reverse pass by Bryant to Sylvester on the two-point conversion but the team up by 7 and seals the fate of the Wardogs.

“Great overall night,” said NEFL President Tom Torrisi. “Great performance by both teams. Entertainment before the game and at the half. And a ton of football fans watching an awesome game. That what we do this for.”

Jamie Bryant collected over 170 All-Purpose Yards against the Wardogs

 

 

BOXSCORE

TEAMS 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q FINAL
Wardogs 7 7 0 13 27
Panthers 6 6 8 14 34

 

RHODE ISLAND WARDOGS

PASSING Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
Jeff Costa 16 28 364 4 1

 

RECEIVING Catch Yards TD’s Catch Yards TD’s
James Suber 2 28 0 Marquim Moore 9 216 0
Elliott Wright 2 79 1 Chris Walshy 1 12 1
Keenan Thompson 1 12 1 Damon Belien 1 11 0

 

RUSHING Rush Yards TD’s Rush Yards TD’s
John Anderson 14 76 0 Jeff Costa 2 5 0

 

DEFENSE

STAND OUTS

Tackles Sacks INT Misc.
Beau Richards 3
Jared Coyle 4
Cedric Bear 2 1

 

SPECIAL TEAMS
Francesco Giusti 3 / 4 PAT

 

CONNECTICUT PANTHERS

PASSING Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
Jason Manson 8 15 218 3 0
Jamie Bryant 2 2 30 1 0

 

RECEIVING Catch Yards TD’s Catch Yards TD’s
LJ Colon 2 53 1 Jamie Bryant 2 51 1
Marky Desruisseaux 4 95 0 Kevin Sylvester 2 49 2

 

RUSHING Rush Yards TD’s Rush Yards TD’s
Jamie Bryant 9 92 0 Kevin Woolfolk 12 75 0
Andre Dixon 11 62 0 Jason Manson 3 18 0

 

DEFENSE

STAND OUTS

Tackles Sacks INT Misc.
Moose Welch 3 1 0
Akwon Shabazz 4 2 0 Forced Fumble
Phil Tierro 3 0 0 2 pass deflections
Ty Boseman 0 0 1

 

SPECIAL TEAMS
Luigi Liovi 5/7 PAT

 

TOTAL OFFENSE

OFFENSE Rush Plays Rush Yards Passing Plays Passing Yards TOTAL OFFENSE
Wardogs 16 81 28 364 44 plays/ 445 yards
Panthers 35 247 17 248 52 plays/ 495 yards

 

PENALITIES

Wardog 35 yards Panthers 25 yards

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