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The New England DII conference is winding down and four teams at the top of the standings has a realistic chance of taking the number one seed going into the playoffs. Mystic River, Amoskeag, Hartford and Portland all sit within striking distance of first place.
The NERFU DII saw a bit of restructuring from last year as last years conference winner and traditionally strong New Haven departed for the Empire Conference. Additionally, Amoskeag, Hartford and Portland all moved down from playing in DI last season to compete in the DII ranks.
Mystic River is in best position to take home the top prize as the side from Malden has a game in hand on the competition and is currently unbeaten. The Mystics defeated Amoskeag 47-17 to move into second place in the standings.
The Mystics jumped out to a 13-0 lead before yielding a try to Amoskeag. Mystic River extended the lead to 23-7 before the opposition added a try and a penalty to make it a one score game. The Mystics, however, reeled off 24 unanswered points to take the victory.
“From a club perspective, this season has been competitive at both levels, DI and DII,” said Mystic River club president Brett Willis. “I have been just thrilled with our performance so far.”
Mark Holi has taken over as the full time DII coach and it has paid dividends for Mystic River. “At the DII level we lost some players but we gained a coach that is committed to DII. That is the biggest hole that we had last season….We still went to the sweet 16 without a full time DII coach. Now with Mark on board, he has been the key to success,” added Willis.
Portland sits at the top of the table and with a win over Worcester today extended its record to 6-2. Hoping to catch the Rugby World Cup final, the game was played Friday night.
“It was a tough match but fortunately them having to do a full days work and drive two hours to us was a bigger challenge,” said Portland coach Tom Lovering. “That is what you see in this league is it hard to win on the road. A team that can win on the road consistently is going to do well.”
The Maine side dropped a pair of games midway through the season to Mystic River and Hartford after getting off to a hot start. Portland appears to have gotten back on the right track with a couple wins in consecutive weeks. “We had a couple of key injuries in the middle of the season that rocked us back a bit. We are on a bit of an upswing now and just getting some of those guys back fit, having some more depth in our squad right now going into the end of the season has helped us right the ship,” added Lovering.
In other action this weekend, Hartford defeated Saratoga 69-14 and Albany bested Providence 27-25. There is only one slate of games left for the fall campaign. Unlike past years, however, the regular season will continue into the spring with a pair of games to be played in March. It has yet to be confirmed, but the NERFU is likely to have a four-team playoff to determine the team that advances to the DII sweet 16.