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Panthers win championship

Albany Panthers Quarterback Cecil Lester, left, celebrates with his team after winning the inaugural PIFL Championship game Saturday night at the Albany Civic Center.

Albany Panthers Quarterback Cecil Lester, left, celebrates with his team after winning the inaugural PIFL Championship game Saturday night at the Albany Civic Center.

ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany Panthers arena football team, in their third year of existence since filling the void left by the now-defunct South Georgia Wildcats, captured their second-straight championship Saturday night — something the Wildcats could never quite accomplish during their tenure in the Good Life City.

Just like last year when the Panthers won the title in the Southern Indoor Football League against the Louisiana Swashbucklers, No. 1 seed Albany defended its crown inside the Albany Civic Center on Saturday night, this time against the No. 2-seeded Richmond (Va.) Raiders, 60-56, to win the title in the Professional Indoor Football League, which the Panthers joined this past offseason when the SIFL folded after three years.

A raucous crowd of 6,194 fans filled the Civic Center on Saturday — many of them dressed in black attire after the team called for a “Black Out” before the game — to cheer on the Panthers, who jumped out to a 36-30 halftime lead and held on for the win.

The Raiders and Panthers split the two regular-season meetings with Albany winning the season opener at home, then falling in the regular-season finale in Virginia on a last-second field goal.

Albany ended its inaugural season in the PIFL at 12-2 overall and as league champs, while Richmond (11-3) had to settle for runner-up.

The Panthers’ head coach for both of those titles, Lucious Davis, reportedly said he was leaving after this season — win or lose — following Saturday’s game. But Albany owner Rod Chappell disputed that report after the game.

“We’re champs again, and he’s coming back,” Chappell told The Herald as his players celebrated wildly around him on stage while being presented the first-ever PIFL Cup. “I already talked to him.”

Read the rest of the story today in Sports on Page 1B.