Three Canterbury Top 20 teams are in action this weekend before the D1A Playoffs kick in to high gear. No. 3 BYU hosts No. 15 Colorado while No. 9 Indiana travels to Ohio to play Notre Dame College.
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 15 Colorado State
Saturday’s matchup is a potential D1A Playoff meeting between the Rocky Mountain schools. While the Cougars have already punched their ticket to the postseason, Colorado State are still hopeful for a bid themselves. The Rams will be in postseason mentality, if not already, after the match in Provo. A win would be even better against one of the top teams in the division, and would most certainly boast their resume for a playoff bid.
It’s been a learning process for the green and gold squad all spring long. Each game brought something new to focus on in practice, and it has notably showed in building confidence on the pitch. All-Conference prop Jaron Beerline has been exceptional in his role as a team leader. The additional pieces of lock Anton Barlow and flanker Ryan Nedbailio have also bolstered the Rams offensive prowess thus far. Together, the team has appeared stronger and stronger each week, with arguably their biggest test of the year coming on the road this week. With players changing up positions this spring, as well as getting underclassmen plenty of experience, the Rams are not a team to sleep on.
The Cougars were successful in their last two regular season games against Central Washington, winning both in impressive fashion. In total, however, BYU is in the midst of a six game winning streak, highlighted by downing top team Saint Mary’s last month, and is a team no one wants to face at the moment. The recent play of sophomore center Calvin Whiting has helped pave the way. But one of the team’s biggest areas of success this year has been in capitalizing on mistakes made by the opposition. Averaging 45 points in the last three games, the Cougars show no signs of letting up as of late.
No. 9 Indiana vs. Notre Dame College
Notre Dame College was relentless in an impressive fall season, going undefeated en route to a 39-17 D1AA Fall Championship win over Bowling Green. It was a good follow up to the program’s D1AA National Championship appearance nearly a year ago, and appears to be even better in 2017.
It should be a surprise to no one that head coach Jason Fox was named USA Rugby’s Competitive Coach of the Year. In the fall Notre Dame College had a handful of notable wins over D1A programs, including Wheeling Jesuit, No. 12 Davenport and No. 7 Indiana. And while the Falcons await their opponent for the D1AA championship match this year, they will meet the Hoosiers once again in a rematch of October.
The Falcons were victorious in a back and forth, lead changing affair. The Hoosiers matched the Falcons offense with a physical defense, keeping them on their own side of the field most of the match. A try by junior flanker Cian Grendon late in the game put Notre Dame College ahead, but Indiana responded in the final moments. Victory, however, came up short for the Hoosiers, as a go-ahead conversion attempt failed, making it a 31-30 win for the Falcons.
It will be Indiana’s final regular season game before the D1A Playoffs start. With a two-game winning streak in hand, avenging the fall season loss would be a prime momentum boost, and make the team as one of the hottest schools in competition heading into the postseason. At center, notable weapon Bryce Campbell returned last month after playing with the Men’s Eagles team. The additional play of seniors Alex Dorrier, Ty Graham and Jake Hidalgo also help make this Hoosiers team a formidable foe in terms of leadership and capability.
The Hoosiers are averaging 41 points per game in the spring, most recently downing Notre Dame 40-19 to begin the month of April. At the same time, Notre Dame College was claiming the inaugural Cleveland Collegiate Cup over Baldwin Wallace in a 38-21 bout. In sevens action the team participated in the Las Vegas CRC Invitational, reaching the semifinals before losing to champion Lindenwood. Senior fullback Marcus Tupuola has been a constant threat on the Falcons’ offense, while wing Rodney Thomas has demonstrated keen set up plays for his teammates to find the end zone, and being clutch in the kicking game to boot.