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Denver's Kyle Hit with ball. Travis Prior photo

Two weeks removed from the first tournament in the Frontier Conference, the Kansas City Blues host the Heartland 7s at Legacy Park in Lee’s Summit, Mo. this Saturday. The Denver Barbarians defeated the Blues in the final of Denver 7s two weeks ago and Kansas City looks to defend its home turf against an experienced field this weekend.

The Heartland 7s tournament consists of a Men’s Qualifier, Men’s Open and Boy’s High School divisions. The tournament is in its ninth year as a qualifier event for the Frontier and in its third year at Legacy Park. 

With only five teams entered in the Men’s Qualifier division, the Denver Barbarians, the Glendale Raptors, the Omaha Goats, the Kansas City Blues A, and the Kansas City Blues B will play round robin in pool play. The top four seeds advance to the semifinals and the victors will compete in the Cup Final.

“It’s a very lean but tough division in the Frontier Region,” tournament director Pete Kowalski said. “Denver proved themselves to be deserving front-runners this summer, but the Blues should be better at their home event this weekend. Denver is a perennial power in 7s rugby and have been one of the top 7s teams in the country year-in and year-out for over a decade. This year is no different as the result at the Denver 7s and their re-loaded roster showed in June.” 

“The Blues are a program on the rise, however, and will be very tough at home having won the Heartland 7s in 2012 and 2014,” Kowalski added. “Following up their third-place finish at Nationals last season with a Bowl Finals appearance in the Elite Division at the LVI in February, the Blues have expanded their summer 7s program to include a High School and Collegiate 7s Academy... The depth that this program expansion has created in the past two years has enabled the Blues this summer to attract high-level players from top collegiate teams like Lindenwood University and Arkansas State University.”

Reflecting on the Denver 7s, Barbarians head coach Steve LaPorta said, “It was good because we have a large number of new players. You never know what you truly have until you start playing tournaments and their development on tournament day. They did a really good job actually improving every match and I liked the way they meshed.”

The new blood LaPorta mentioned includes two players from New Mexico. “Celester [Asuega] and Jeremy [Misailegalu], Missile is what we call him. [Misailegalu] ended up getting MVP, but they are two hard-working kids that have done everything we have asked of them so far this summer,” said LaPorta.

Having the presence of Eagle Martin Iosefo has been great for the team, though he is in Toronto at the Pan-Am Games with the Eagles. “For that first tournament, we had Martin Iosefo, which was nice to have because he is also a great kid who has a super attitude and a great team player.”

The Barbos will also be missing long-time star Maximo de Achaval. “I’m not sure what we are going to have so we are going to find out what kind of depth we have and some of the other guys are going to have to step up in leadership roles. We are going to see who steps up in the division as far as this weekend.”