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Panthers win championship title

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Pop open the champagne. The Albany Panthers are the 2011 SIFL champions.

Quarterback Cecil Lester led the host Panthers to a 69-48 victory over the Louisiana Swashbucklers in Saturday's title game.

The Panthers overcame a controversial ruling that deducted three points from their score at halftime, giving Albany its first professional football title.

"This was for you Albany," Panthers General Manager Will Carter told the 7,500 in attendance at the Albany Civic Center as he accepted the championship trophy after the game.

The Panthers, who had defeated Erie and Columbus in the playoffs, avenged last year's SIFL semifinal loss to the Swashbucklers.

After leading much of the first half, Albany trailed Louisiana 27-21 at halftime. But the Panthers regained the lead on their opening drive of the second half and never looked back, outscoring the Swashbucklers 48-21 in the second half.