No. 9 San Diego State made a final statement for a D1A Playoff bid this weekend defeating Cal Poly 41-14 on the road in the California Conference finale. A much different game than the team’s preseason tilt, the Aztecs recovered quickly from a slow start to make it three in a row.
“We had a few bumps in the performance, but overall they boys did well in the key focus areas,” said Lichtig. “Playoffs is always a different story, the second season is always about the 80 minutes on the pitch with both teams fighting for survival and the result. I think the team has done well to develop the grit it takes to compete in playoffs, but we will see.”
Coming in to the match, one of head coach Alex Lichtig’s goals was to demonstrate a more consistent offense. That goes double for the defensive side of the ball, which made an additional assertion by allowing just one try against the Mustangs. Lichtig credited the early miscues to a lack of patience before finally getting settled down the remainder of the match.
Cal Poly’s Corey McGrillen tested the Aztec defense early with two successful penalty kicks. San Diego State responded with a penalty kick of their own by fly half Austin Switzer, who followed up with a try five minutes later to gain the lead. Additional dot downs by eight man Jonathan Raby and Harrison Barkham helped extend that lead going in to halftime.
Up 24-9 heading in to the second half, junior flanker Jacob Heene tallied the Mustangs’ lone try of the day to make it 24-14 in the 44th minute. Jacob Zinda responded for the Aztecs moments later to help put the game out of reach for good. Additional tries by Adahir Aguilera and Jacob Gonzalez made that a reality late in the match before the final whistle blew.
Barkman and Switzer finished as the top scorers for San Diego State. They were the leaders on the backline as well according to Lichtig. Outside the score sheet he credited prop Gil Covey for being a constant developing threat over the last month or so.
“[Covey] has had the skill set and continued to develop as an impact player for our team. But over the last few weeks, he has reached a new level with some dynamic prowess on attack and consistent work rate on defense. He is dangerous in the open field as a runner and distributor, and has a keen eye for turning over possession on defense,” Lichtig added.
San Diego State now stands at 20 points in the conference to pull even with No. 1 Saint Mary’s. The team’s loss to the Gaels back in March keeps them in a solid second place in the standings, and overall puts the Aztecs in good position for a postseason appearance. The win this past weekend should keep San Diego State among the top-ten teams, which would translate to a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Cal Poly is a different story. The loss against the Aztecs most likely eliminates them from playoff contention. If so, it would be the first time the Mustangs would miss the D1A Playoffs.