2001-12-08 / Sports

The Panthers Roar Into Playoffs

By "The G-man"

By "The G-man"

The Far Rockaway Panthers are on the move! The Pee Wee and Junior Pee Wee teams have advanced into the first round of the playoffs. Last week, it was reported that the Pee Wee team was virtually eliminated from playoff contention when they lost to the Ridgedale Brewers. After conferring with league representatives, it was confirmed that the team did make the playoffs, and that the game they lost last week was to determine home field advantage and whether or not they would drop to third place or remain second in the standings. The Junior Pee Wee team took fourth place in the standings, giving them a playoff berth. The Pee Wee coach, John Zabala, and Junior Pee Wee coach, Bill Blakely, are excited about their chances heading into the playoffs.

"It was a tough season, but now it gets even tougher. The second season begins now, and if we stay focused, great things are going to happen for these teams," said Zabala.

The Pee Wee team had a "bye" last week, but the Junior Pee Wee team faced the Springfield Rifles. The game was filled with tension, as both teams needed the win to make the playoff round. Many parents, fans and curious onlookers attended the game, played at Bayswater State Park, and the cheering of the Far Rockaway Panther Cheerleaders could be heard all the way to The Beach Club. Both teams unleashed a flurry of wicked hits and tackles, and the game was at a fevered pitch. The Panthers were leading 14-6, and the game came down to a fourth and three play, on the fifteen-yard line, for the Springfield Rifles, with less than a minute on the clock. When the ball was snapped, it was handed off to the running back, which quickly cut to the outside. The running back was on the verge of making the first down marker, when Adonai Smith-Bey, number 34, made a crushing hit to stop him short of the first down. Parents, fans, coaches and fellow players leaped for the sky in exhilaration. Smith-Bey was later awarded the game ball and was the game’s MVP.

"This is an amazing turnout. It’s good to see so many parents and fans of the team come out to support these kids. The noise level was deafening at this game. My players couldn’t hear the play being called by the quarterback, but it’s all good," chuckled Coach Blakely.

"This is a great experience for these kids, and we want to show the entire Rockaway community that great things, positive things, do happen in Far Rockaway."

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