You are here
The DIAA Fall Playoffs took place over the weekend with St. Joe’s and Mary Washington claiming berths in the National Championship on December 3 at Furman University.
St. Joe’s slugged it out against Tennessee on Saturday to earn a berth in the semifinals. The game was sloppy due to an all out downpour and the Hawks managed to outlast the Volunteers 13-10.
"It was a good game by both teams given the muddy field conditions and the heavy rain. I think our guys really stepped up defensively especially at the end when Tennessee had a late game rally to bring it with in three. Glad to see our guys keep their composure and secure the victory,” said St. Joe’s coach Dan Yarusso.
Bowling Green edged James Madison 10-7 after a delay on Saturday afternoon. The field became unplayable and they had to move to a 5:30 p.m. kickoff against the Dukes on the turf field.
In the final, the Hawks took a 12-0 lead early in the first half but Bowling Green responded with a pair of tries midway through the game to put the visitors under pressure. St. Joe’s weathered the storm, however, adding a trio of tries late to seal the match.
“We knew they were going to be tough and it was a gut check game for us and it was another strong outing defensively for us,” said Yarusso. “Again, it was good to see our guys keep their composure and then see things open up for our backs which allowed us to extend our lead.”
Yarusso praised the play of his back three, which included Mike Hoffman, Arem Keshgegain, and Chris Curcio. Along with strong play from flyhalf Noah Niumataliwalu and locks, Mickey Chapple and Tom Gibbons, St. Joe’s was able to outlast a strong Bowling Green side.
Now, St. Joe’s will take on a talented Mary Washington team and is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s an absolute honor for our guys to not only represent the team and University but our Conference as well. We are excited for the opportunity to play at the National Championship and have heard great things about Mary Washington all season. They had an impressive season in a tough Chesapeake Conference and did some great things on the other side of the bracket. We certainly will have our work cut out for us” concluded Yarusso.
In the other side of the bracket, Mary Washington pulled away from Rowan 42-21 for the right to take on Kentucky. Mary Washington gambled and started a few less experienced forwards on Saturday to stay as fresh as possible on Sunday. It was a testament to their depth, especially in the forwards.
“Our defensive shape was pretty good and ultimately Rowan was not really able to mount any multi phase attacks,” said Mary Washington coach Min Sae Chae.
Kentucky defeated Western Michigan 59-21 in the other quarterfinal. The Wildcats did very well in counter attack, punishing Western Michigan for their turnovers.
Mary Washington executed its game plan nearly to perfection against a potent Kentucky attack.
“Our plan was to really press hard with line speed and contest their breakdowns whenever possible,” added Chae. “Our backs did an excellent job of containing their backline and on attack our decision making was much better.”
Mary Washington got a tremendous performance from a trio of forwards. Hooker Harry Williams was great in the set piece and attack, Jack Levine at flanker had a tremendous work rate and number 8 Matthew Gordon, the team captain was the MVP of the weekend.
Several backs also had a hand in the overall victory. The halfback combo of Harry Masters and Michael Sacks were instrumental in the victory. Masters marshaled the team around the field and Sacks was tremendous on defense. Finally, Nathan Neri was a ball hawk all weekend out on the wing.
The Mothers got out of the gate strong and ended up winning 38-7. This will set up a date with St. Joe’s. Chae believes that the media and many of the teams underestimated the Hawks and paid for it. It was no easy feat to beat the number one seeded team at their place and believes they will be a formidable challenge on December 3.
“St. Joe’s is a very dangerous team with nothing to lose. They are playing with house money and their confidence must be sky high right now. We look forward to the challenge and hope to put our best foot forward on Dec 3,” Chae concluded.