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Three teams go into the final week of DII club action in the Midwest leading their conferences.
Only one, the Dayton Flying Pigs, has even an outside chance of being caught, while the Eastside Banshees and Wisconsin are both uncatchable.
Eastside’s regular season is done already, and at 7-1 they are ten standings points ahead of 5-1-1 Bremer County. Event a bonus-point win by Bremer County won’t budge them from 2nd place.
Dayton is in a more precarious position, as they could be caught in points should they lose to Toledo and Pittsburgh wins against Detroit. But Dayton holds the head-to-head over Pittsburgh (by virtue of September 10th’s 29-27 victory) and should hold on.
“We've been meeting the goals we set for the team and our depth has allowed us to maintain our level of play regardless of injuries,” said Dayton captain Kudzai Muzorewa. “We also have the benefit of excellent coaching in Shane ‘Stax’ Stachurski. He's been getting us to push ourselves pretty hard both on and off the pitch.”
But the biggest part of Dayton’s success comes down to the players.
“From prop to fullback and beyond, we are all playing as a unit and buying into the game plan,” Muzorewa said.
Even more dominant is Wisconsin, which goes into their last game of the season ten points ahead of the South Side Irish. Wisconsin is 7-0, with a bonus point in all seven games, and an average score of 41-13.
“Losing in the Midwest semifinal last April to Buffalo was extremely disappointing,” said Wisconsin’s Max Zukowski. “But we were fortunate enough gather ourselves over the summer, come back with a few new players and a new coaching staff this fall.”
Zukowski says the club has always had a strong pack, which led them to national playoff runs in 1997, 1998 and 2008. But after 2008 their rebuilding phase focused on making the team more balanced.
“If we can continue with our balanced attack I really like our chances of success,” he said. “We have a stiff test this weekend with Lincoln Park RFC who are playing for their playoff lives.”
Head Coach Joe Lippert doesn’t want his team to slack off, as they have to face those unbeatable Banshees a week later in the playoffs.
“So far, so good,” he said in typically cautious coaching talk. “We continue to work hard at improving every single week. The last two weekends of the season will be massive tests. Lincoln Park must beat us if they want a chance at a playoff spot and the Eastside Banshees will likely be a stiffer test than anyone we've faced in our side of the league. Our forwards play hard-nosed, front-foot rugby and our backline has really come together and learned each other's tendencies (and worked their combinations) very well. The units also work well and complement each other. Week to week, we continue to get sharper. As a group, they've become more tight-knit and cohesive as the season has progressed. We've got a very sound first 15 and the competition for roster spots has brought everyone's play up. The second half of the season it has been incredibly difficult sorting out a match-day 22. I am proud of the attitude and hard work shown by the guys.”