Preble Panthers tighten grip on Afloat title

Petty Officer 2nd Class Warren Wilson fights off a defender at midfield, but still makes the catch to lead the Preble Panthers to the win.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Warren Wilson fights off a defender at midfield, but still makes the catch to lead the Preble Panthers to the win.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

The USS Preble (DDG 88) Panthers extended their lead at the top of the Afloat Division by dispatching second-place Pearl City Peninsula Warriors, 21-7, on Nov. 19 in an intramural flag football game at Ward Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Preble, which held a two-game lead over the Warriors coming into the contest, extended their lead to three games to lock up the Afloat crown and earn the division’s No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs, which will be held from Dec. 3 to 5.

The win also kept Preble as the division’s only undefeated team with a record of 7-0, while the Warriors fell to 4-3. This still appears good enough to earn them a qualifying spot in the playoffs.

“They (the Warriors) were out here a couple games looking at us and cheering on the other team because they wanted us to lose,” said Panthers quarterback Petty Officer 3rd Class Dylan Brune. “From then on, when we saw them it was just like, ‘just wait until we play you.'”

The first couple of offensive sets by both teams couldn’t gain traction, but on their third try, the Panthers woke up and struck pay dirt on only three plays.

On first down from the Panthers’ own 25, Brune stepped back to pass and connected with Seaman Joshua Hardin, who scampered down inside the Warriors 20-yard line for the team’s first big play of the game.

“Hardin is a great player,” Brune said. “He’s got great hands, great speed and he can take a hit.”

On the next play, Brune tossed a bull’s-eye to Petty Officer 2nd Class Warren Wilson, which led to the Panthers first touchdown of the game.

The following point-after-touch-down (PAT) attempt was good to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

Both defenses stepped up their play for the remainder of the second half to keep the score close at halftime.

Following the break, barely holding momentum, the Panthers got the ball at their own 15 and didn’t stop until getting their second touchdown of the game.

The drive took seven plays to finish, with the last play yielding a 19-yard pass play from Brune to Petty Officer 3rd Class Preston Bias for six points.

Another converted PAT raised the Panthers lead to 14-0.

After falling down by two scores, the Warriors finally got the ball moving.

Starting at their own 15, quarterback Petty Officer 2nd Class Leeroy Ybara moved the chains to midfield at the 40 on only three plays.

Moving the ball to the Panthers 19, the Warriors got a huge break when a roughing-the-passer penalty made it first down and goal-to-goal from the nine.

Ybara misfired on his next two passes, but on third down, he finally got the Warriors on the scoreboard with a completion to Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Eichelberger.

The Warriors made good on their PAT attempt to cut the lead down to half at 14-7.

Feeling the heat of a comeback by the Warriors, the Panthers regrouped and started a march of their own with time running out on the clock.

Brune breathed life back into the Panthers attack by completing eight out of nine passes, with the last toss going back to Wilson for his second touchdown catch of the day.

“This is my first game as quarterback because we lost our starter,” Brune said. “My receivers stepped up and just said, ‘Hey dude, just throw me the ball.'”

With one title firmly in hand, the Panthers now focus their attention on winning the Joint Base championship.

No team from the Afloat Division has ever accomplished that, but Brune said that the Panthers are ready to take on the challenge.

“Our defense limits yards and points,” Brune said. “Like they say, defense wins championships.”

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Category: Sports