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Life looks to stay undefeated while Davenport hopes to score its first
league win of the season Saturday in Marietta, Ga. The 0-2 Panthers have
been competitive in both losses, while the young 2-0 Running Eagles have
been pushed in their wins.
For Davenport, the beginning of the season has been difficult, with All American flyhalf JP Eloff being injured, a very harsh winter that's kept the Panthers indoor, and six-straight road games.
"We have been outside for 12 days. Five of those days have been at Clemson University. How can you prepare a team to play these teams, when there is no way you can practice?" said Davenport coach Kruger Van Biljon.
"You can't be productive in a basketball gym. You can't do contact. It's impossible. We don't use that as an excuse. We just bite down and we're going to play, and that's what we did."
One of the few things you can practice in a gym is scrummaging, and the Panthers have been very good at it so far this season. Davenport manhandled both Arkansas State and Lindenwood at scrum time in their first two league games this season.
"They've got a good front row. They've got a good back five. That pretty much usually leads to a pretty solid scrum," said Life's Dan Payne of DU. "Obviously, Angus [MacLellan] has been anchoring it down at tight head for them for a while, so we'll have our hands full with that."
Life is playing with considerable youth all over the field, with new players or relative inexperience at scrumhalf, flyhalf, fullback (when Joe Cowley is away), in the midfield and sprinkled throughout the pack. This weekend they'll have a lot of experience in the front row, with Paris Hollis at loosehead, Glen Maricelli at hooker and Zach Walker at tighthead.
"Our front row has some good experience. It's the five behind them we have to keep reminding to do their job all the time," said Payne.
"If they go through their pattern and their setup and remember everything they have to do and get their body height right, we have success, but if their focus or attention to detail wanes at any part of the game, you can see where we become vulnerable at it."
Life's young back line has been potent at times this season, but isn't getting enough touches. With new players needing to link up to get the ball into the hands of guys like Taku Tela, Zander Van Schalkwyk, Mike Sanders and Tyrus Baytops, it doesn't always get wide enough.
"It's knowing when to take the space. Some of it's skill breakdown and getting it wide. Some of it's recognizing the space is on outside and moving it there," said Payne of why the ball isn't getting to the perimeter enough.
"We've got to get the ball in their hands and let them do what they need to do, but sometimes when we've had that opportunity we've either gotten too loose with the ball or turned it over."
Davenport's troubles at flyhalf are compounded this week, as Brady Gent, whose stepped in to fill Eloff's shoes, is out for disciplinary reasons, leaving freshman Alex Dorrier with a big job.
"He played fullback at Arkansas State, played starting fullback against Lindenwood and played 10 in high school, so he can slot in well," Van Biljon said of Dorrier.
Standing next to Dorrier will be former High School 7s All American Mike Houston, who is returning from injury. With fellow former 7s HSAA Sonny Adjei at outside center, Davenport has a young, but talented, midfield, just like Life.