Photo Steve Zomberg (homepage) & Ed Navarrow (right)
BOULDER, Colo. – D1A’s opening round of the 2014 playoffs saw each of the four home teams hold home pitch advantage and advance to next Saturday’s Quarterfinals.
Both Cal Poly and Santa Clara out of the California Conference disposed of their opponents from the West rather easily, while Davenport and Colorado were forced to scrape and claw their way towards victories against Army and San Diego State, respectively.
Davenport 28-24 Army
Playing a physical West Point team, Davenport matched Army’s physicality and was able to stay a step ahead of the visiting team for the entire first half. Army took its first lead 10 minutes into the second half when Jeff Ferebee found the try zone to put the Black Knights up 19-18. Flyhalf Brady Gent regained the lead for the Panthers when he notched three of his 13 total points with a penalty kick.
With only five minutes remaining, Army responded when senior prop Ferebee muscled in for his second try and put West Point on the verge of a playoff victory on the road. However, Army’s upset bid would be squashed when freshman Reese Oberlin scored the game-winning try in the 79th minute.
Davenport advances to play a familiar foe in Lindenwood University. The two Mid-South schools met twice during conference play, with Lindenwood winning both matches.
Cal Poly 46-7 Wyoming
Initially, Wyoming looked up for the challenge of knocking off Cal Poly. The Cowboys scored a converted try to tie the match at seven-all 15 minutes into the first round playoff game. The try given must have woken up the Mustangs, who went on to score the final 39 points of the match.
Speedy winger Matt Long contributed two tries to help Cal Poly in its opening round blowout. Next Saturday, the Mustangs travel to Jonesboro, Ark., to play No. 3-ranked Arkansas State.
Colorado 22-17 San Diego State
In a physical match that was marred by ball-handling errors on both sides, San Diego State did not seem negatively affected by the high altitude or the fact that Head Coach Alex Lichtig’s starting XV was represented by eight freshman. In fact, the Aztecs took a 7-0 lead to open the match, but Colorado regained control with first half tries by Sean Kilfoyle, Brian Wanless and Guido Murnig.
San Diego State opened the second half the same way it opened the first half – controlling possession. Quality ball retention inside Colorado’s half led to an unconverted Aztec try and a tied game at 17-17. Winger Peter Heffelfinger would help the Buffs regain the lead with an unconverted try.
Neither team could capitalize on scoring opportunities in the final 20 minutes, and the Buffaloes defense did just enough to hold its 22-17 lead. Colorado will have to clean up its attack if it wants to cause any problems for Life University in next weekend’s quarterfinal match in Marietta, Ga.
Santa Clara 49-12 Colorado State
Santa Clara took an early advantage against Colorado State and never looked back. The Broncos used two first half tries by Michael Cunningham to help build a 26-0 halftime lead.
JJ Holmgren, who slotted three penalty kicks, added two second-half tries, as California’s second place team had its way with the West’s second best side. With the victory, Santa Clara will make the short drive to Moraga, Calif., to take on No. 1-ranked Saint Mary’s in the D1A Playoff’s second round.
D1A Playoffs Quarterfinals, Saturday April 26
Santa Clara @ Saint Mary’s
Colorado @ Life
Cal Poly @ Arkansas State
Davenport @ Lindenwood