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The Chicago Lions have made it to the Round of 32 of the DI club playoffs, doing what they had to do this weekend to keep playing this spring.
Chicago pulled out of the Super League just before the fall season, citing the difficulty of sticking with the rules governing which players can play RSL and which can play DI. The change meant they had to compete for a DI title in the fall without a large group of players who normally play in the spring.
They finished 3rd in the Midwest-West, meaning they could only attain the 4th seed in the Midwest, and that only if they swept their playoff games this weekend.
That they did, defeating the Detroit Tradesmen 34-17 on Saturday and Buffalo 71-12 on Sunday.
"We know there's an expectation that a former Super League club should do well, and certainly other teams get themselves up for us," said Lions Head Coach Marty Wiggins. "We've been prepared for that. We certainly didn't take any of these teams for granted."
Wiggins said he was pleased with the Saturday performance, overall, saying they didn't lose focus.
"This is cup or playoff rugby, and you have to stay focused," he said. "We know there are all sorts of factors that can affect the outcome - the weather, the other team, luck, the referee. So we worked on controlling the things we could control. One of those was the level of our conditioning, and I think we showed that we've done the work there."
Wiggins singled out scrumhalf Dave Selimos for praise. The halfback has been a solid player for some time for Chicago, but in recent weeks has picked up his game and helped lead the team.
In the midfield, young University of Minnesota products Ed Long and Lucas Thiem played well.
"Luke really got going playing 7s for us, and he's really come along," said Wiggins.
Notes: Now the 4th seed in the Midwest, Chicago has the unenviable task of traveling to South #1 New Orleans. But, given Chicago's long-standing record of success, and the arrival of a couple of experienced players for the spring, this could become a big 4th over 1st upset.
Chicago beat two Midwest-East teams to claim their playoff spot, and the Midwest-East ended a bit chastened in these playoffs. The three East teams went a combined 0-5, with only Cincinnati, the West #1 team, garnering a seed to the playoffs. Cincinnati could have been 1st, but dropped to 3rd.