Panthers win SIFL title despite having points taken off scoreboard

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

ALBANY -- All of a sudden, a drop kick was worth just one point on a PAT attempt -- after Albany Panthers kicker Geoff Boyer had hit three for six points Saturday in the SIFL Championship game.

The officials' post-halftime decision to remove three points from Albany's score left a record crowd of approximately 7,500 at the Albany Civic Center bewildered and even prompted Panthers GM Will Carter to the field with league commissioner Gary Tufford and Dan Blum, supervisor of officials, on the phone to verify the ruling.

In the end, though, the lost points on drop-kick PATs didn't prevent the Panthers from winning their first SIFL title with a 69-48 victory Saturday against the Louisiana Swashbucklers.

Albany quarterback Cecil Lester rebounded from his first-half interception that put the Panthers down 27-24 at the break -- 27-21 after the officials made the drop-kick ruling -- with a flawless second half, throwing for seven touchdowns after intermission. Lester finished with 10 scores.

The controversial ruling, though, took center stage -- or midfield -- even after Albany had taken a 29-27 lead in the third quarter.

Carter came onto the field while speaking with Tufford and Blum by phone. Neither director was available for comment after the game.

"My thing is this. All year long and last weekend, we kicked the two and it was good, and my thing is, how can this change in the middle of a game, a championship game?" Carter said.

The officiating crew deliberated further, delaying play, and ultimately stood by their decision.

Panthers coach Lucious Davis sided with the ruling after the game as his team celebrated its first SIFL crown.

"They were right on the call," Davis said. "It was just misinterpretation on my part. There was nothing I could do about it. I complained, but there was nothing I could do about it.

"I think the rule needs to be changed, but there's nothing I can do about it at all."

Even so, the Panthers had been beneficiaries of the supposed drop-kick rule that awards two points on PAT attempts in each of their previous two playoff games.

"It has been (worth two points before), but the head of officials called and said that it was worth one," Davis said. "We've been playing by that rule all season, and it wasn't brought to attention until midway through the game. Like I said, it was the right call. We just misinterpreted, so there's nothing we could do about it."

There was nothing the Sammy Knight-led Swashbucklers offense could do to capitalize on it, either.

Louisiana's Wildcat offense proved inept against Albany, and late stops put the game in the hands of Lester and the Panthers' passing game rather than in those of the drop-kick ruling.

"I couldn't believe that they would do something like that, but we didn't want to get distracted as a team worrying about that," receiver Clenton Rafe said. "The only thing we wanted to do was come out and make plays, and our defense made that stop that we needed. After that it was a wrap."

Carter agreed.

"None of that matters right now," Carter said. "We're the champions. That's all that matters. We had to go out and play football, and we still won, and that's all that counts."