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Justin Rutledge assisted with the writing of this recap.
Half of the Division II Men’s Club National Playoffs Round of 32 field played this past weekend with plenty of teams looking for their berths into the next round. The conference championships of the New England, Empire, Southern, Pacific South, and Midwest were in full swing. The first games of the Frontier, Red River, and Mid-Atlantic playoffs begin next weekend.
In the Atlantic North, the Mystic Barbarians and the Village Lions will meet in the New England/Empire conference final next weekend. To reach the final, the Lions beat the New Haven Old Black, 52-19, and Mystic edged Newport, 20-17.
The Village Lions and New Haven played an extremely tough match as the defense consistently forced runners to make mistakes and turn over possession. “We knew it would be a tough match for us, having lost twice to New Haven in the regular season, both by four points,” said the Lions’ head coach Andrew Britt. “We knew it would take most of the match to wear New Haven down. The score line did not reflect the closeness of the game.” Ahead 26-14 at the half, the Lions were in control for the entire match where they doubled their point total in the second half.
Between the Mystic and Newport, the defenses were strong and starved the opposition of points for the majority of the match. Nick Fujiwara, Matt Maloney, and Peter Haxton each scored tries for Mystic with Alex Appel connected on a penalty and two conversions. Mystic led 15-7 at the half, but Newport came back to score 10 points and take the lead, 17-15. Haxton’s late dive over the line proved to be the game winner for Mystic sending his club to the Round of 16.
The Midwest Semifinals featured a blowout and a nail-biter as the South Side Irish edged the Cleveland Crusaders, 16-14, while the Detroit Tradesmen shut out the Eastside Banshees, 57-0.
One of the favorites of tournament showed their dominance on Saturday as the Detroit Tradesmen crushed the Eastside Banshees, 57-0. Combining an adaptable offensive strategy with all out aggression to get the win, the Tradesmen attack was based in the pack and adapted the area of attack to what the defense was showing. Outside center Samisoni Hafoka was the biggest offensive contributor for the Tradesmen, putting in four of his team’s tries.
Meeting Detroit in the Midwest Championship is the South Side Irish, who clipped the Cleveland Crusaders, 16-14, in Chicago, Ill. Mike Lynch scored the Irish’s lone try, but it was flyhalf Morgan Goodall’s boot that proved to be South Side’s primary offensive threat kicking three penalties and a conversion. Not only was Goodall good for points, but his strategic kicks put Cleveland’s back three under constant pressure setting up opportunities to take advantage.
In the South, the Miami Tridents’ undefeated season came to a halt when Charlotte ended their streak beating the Florida team, 34-33, in the Round of 16. To get to the South Finals, Charlotte beat Nashville, 34-11, and Miami prevailed over Chattanooga, 42-27.
In the final, Irving Caracomo, Chris Eduoarzin, Cardell Terry (2), and Nelson Hicks each scored tries for Charlotte and Alejandro Ospina had three conversions and a penalty. Down 34-16 with 15 minutes remaining, Miami attempted to make a comeback, but fell one point short. Charlotte now awaits the winner of the Midwest Final between Detroit and South Side in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Finally out west, the Huntington Beach Unicorns bested Ventura County Outlaws, 28-25, in the SoCal Finals. The match was a back and forth affair, which ultimately came down to a penalty in the final minutes by Huntington’s Pete Foo-Chong. The reserve player split the uprights to advance to the next round. The victory sets up a confrontation with Tempe in Arizona next weekend for the Pacific South title.