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Two undefeated teams remain in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship Qualifier Division – Kutztown and Lindenwood-Belleville. The Golden Bears and Lynx will meet in the final Saturday at 3:21 p.m. inside Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. If the Lynx win, they’ll punch their ticket to the CRC in June. Kutztown’s just playing for pride, as the Golden Bears already have an at-large bid in hand.
Belleville and Kutztown were the top two seeds coming into the knockout rounds. Belleville went 3-0 in pool play on day one with a point differential of plus-97. Kutztown went 3-0 Thursday with a point differential of plus-95. The two points would see the Lynx get a slightly easier road to the final.
It started with a rematch with Northeastern. The Lynx beat the Huskies 26-0 Thursday. Friday, they jumped out to a three-try lead before halftime. Junior Evian Akers scored the first two, catching an offload from Christian Adorno and the second off a turnover. Senior halfback Jacob Gilliam 0pthen caught an offload before the halftime hooter.
The Huskies didn’t lay down, though, scoring two tries to pull within a score at 17-14. Then reserve Quinton Gilligan busted a long run for the death knell try to seal the win. Utah State was no match for Air Force in the coordinating quarterfinal. The Zoomies controlled all the possession early and walked away with a 22-12 win.
In the semifinal, the Lynx again jumped out to a three-try lead in the first half. It took the Lynx a while to get going, though, as a flurry of penalties marred the opening minutes. Air Force wouldn’t be able to capitalize, though, losing a pass out of bounds near midfield. Off the ensuing lineout, the ball was spun wide for Akers, who burned around the Air Force flank for the opener.
Akers added another after a big run from junior Alex Quinn, helping extend the lead. It wouldn’t get as far away from Belleville in the second half of the semifinal as it did in the quarters, but Air Force did manage two tries.
Kutztown had a tougher go, with two very competitive games. In the quarterfinal against Colorado State, D’Montae Noble was rested. He suffered a broken hand on Thursday. KU struck first through freshman Keagan Barnes. The Rams retaliated with a methodically worked try. Then KU struck back off a long run from the restart, taking a 14-5 lead into halftime.
The Rams scored first after the break, bringing the score to 14-12. Smelling trouble, KU brought on Noble, who made an immediate impact. CSU couldn’t hang any further, as the Golden Bears would run in three unanswered scores.
Meeting KU in the semifinals would be Utah, who beat a very impressive St. Joe’s side in another nail biter. The Hawks took a 5-0 lead into halftime, but Utah scored twice to lead 14-5 late. St. Joe’s worked the ball deep into the attacking end. A try looked certain when senior Jimmy Wolfer caught the ball with two men outside him and fewer defenders across from them, but he cut back into contact instead, and Utah won a penalty in the ruck to win the game.
In the semifinal, Utah was again a nuisance. Noble broke off a long score early, and Utah would level the table in the second half. However, the game ended tied, requiring extra time. Off a Utah scrum, the Ute halfback took a few steps to the blindside, but it wasn’t open. Then he turned and flung a ball toward a teammate, but a KU defender intercepted the pass and ran in the game winner.
Utah beat Air Force 29-21 in the third-place contest.
QF: Lindenwood-Belleville 24-14 Northeastern
QF: Kutztown 31-10 Colorado State
QF: Utah 14-12 St. Joe’s
QF: Air Force 22-12 Utah State
SF: Lindenwood-Belleville 22-10 Air Force
SF: Kutztown 12-7 Utah