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      Raise the Banner

      The Albany Panthers have been waiting eight months to move past their championship season and get the ball flying once again. In 2012, the team's entering a new season with a new league, but it TMs the same Albany Panthers.

      The organization raised the 2011 SIFL Championship banner to the rafters on Saturday night. The team on the field stayed above the pregame distractions and fought off the Richmond Raiders 40-28 at the Albany Civic Center.

      The game one victory was still in doubt till the final minutes. Defensive back Corey Rue returned an interception for a touchdown to put the Panthers ahead 39-28 sealing a 1-0 record for Albany.

      Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Panthers Quarterback Cecil Lester used his veteran connection for three first half touchdowns. Lester connected with some of his favorite targets in Antwone Savage and Antwontis Cutts for a 23-15 halftime lead.

      The Panthers hit the road to Lake Charles, Louisiana next week for a 2011 SIFL Championship rematch against the Louisiana Swashbucklers.