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The fall season in the Empire DII is coming to a close and leaders are emerging in all three divisions. Conference play will resume in the spring and the geographic union playoffs will yield some interesting matchups.
In the Upstate division, Buffalo has been the lead dog in recent years and it is no different this year. Its only blemish is a midseason loss to Rochester. Buffalo sits at 5-1 and with a game in hand on second and third place, it is in good position to take the top spot. The rest of the division is muddled with three or more losses.
In New Jersey, the Union County Mudturtles sit a top the table with a 7-1 record. However, they lost a tough match to Princeton to make the division interesting. The game was originally slated for Saturday but due to the World Cup final the teams agreed to play Friday night.
The first half was very close with a 10-7 score line but PAC came out strong in the second half and blew the game wide open for a 40-17 victory. For PAC, this was a game it needed to win and was ready to play.
“The second half we just came out really fired up and we put on 30 points,” said PAC President John Murillo. “We wouldn’t say we had this marked on our calendars but we knew the date. We played them the second or third weekend of the season. We lost by six points. That one hurt and we really wanted that game back.”
Union has been on the rise in New Jersey since upsetting Princeton in last years playoffs. The conference has seen its shake ups with teams gaining and losing players and oscillating throughout the standings.
“It seems to be kind of like cycles going through right now. Some of the teams that were on the lower end are now coming back up and some of the teams at tip are coming down to the middle or lower,” added Murillo. “Union is one of those teams. A couple of years ago they were kind of middle of the road but they have had a resurgence of young guys coming through the program.”
The NYC division has seen a lot of change this season. New England stalwart New Haven decided to enter the Empire GU this season and sit atop the standings. New Haven picked up a few players from Hartford this year and are poised to make a playoff push.
White Plains, who played in DI last season, lost a number of players and elected to move to DII for a rebuilding season. The team from the suburbs of New York City sits in second place with one loss. That one loss was a drubbing at the hands of New Haven earlier this year. Despite the loss, White Plains coach Dan Pazio is happy with his team’s performance.
“Considering the massive turnover of players things are going well. We kind of went back to basics. Got the guys very very fit. Got the guys working on basic handling skills basic rucking skills and it has basically paid dividends.”
Both White Plains and New Haven are the class of the division and will meet for a rematch in the spring.