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After beating Old Puget Sound Beach 33-7 in their opening game, the All Americans were surprised by Tiger Rugby 29-12. The Collegiates simply struggled to control the game, and fell off too many tackles. That loss almost guaranteed that the All Americans would miss out on the Cup Semis.

After all, the professional team Samurai was up next, and had beaten Tiger Rugby 41-7.

What followed was a supreme study in how to approach a hopeless cause. The All Americans were not going to win the game. They were torched early and Samurai was just too big, and too polished. And yet, the college kids hung on. They did lose, but only 19-10 – three tries to two. Coming off the field, they were clearly bolstered by pushing Samurai so close.

“Obviously you want to get into the Cup Semis, but we are only together for so long,” said Life University’s Colton Cariaga. “We talked to each other about how we all know how to play rugby. We just had to back ourselves on defense.”

That they did, and the close loss to Samurai made coach Tony Pacheco pleased.

“The best thing that happened to the team over the weekend was how they rebounded from that performance against Tiger,” said Pacheco. “We weren’t happy about that game, and the guys came out really well. We lost against Samurai, but I was really, really pleased with the effort. Aaron [Manheimer] and I told the guys, if you defend like you did against Samurai you won’t lose another match.”

That proved to be a prescient statement. In the Plate Semis, the All Americans faced the Chicago Lions and blew them away 33-0. Prop Patrick Blair sold two dummies in a row and showcased a little pace to score his team’s opener, and Tonata Lauti, Tim Stanfill, and Brett Thompson all scored in the shutout.

That result was also an indication of the players’ fitness.

“We had younger legs, that’s true,” said Pacheco. “And it started to show.”

In the final, Trevor Tanifum scored two quick tries to put Glendale on their heels. Blair scored another to keep his side ahead, and then Nate Auspurger sealed it 24-14. They accomplished this despite losing Brad Harrington to a minor injury – the Cal playmaker missed the final two games.

“We had a lot of good efforts,” said Pacheco. “The guys really came together, and they persevered when things got tough. Brett Thompson and Patrick Blair were brilliant all weekend. I think the guy who did a ton of work for us was Bubba Jones. He was just a nuisance for all our opponents, and he never backed down from anybody, regardless of the opponent. He would just go and go and go until he couldn’t anymore.”

Blair also broke out. A very good player for Central Washington, Blair’s confidence has increased and with that he has shown a little bit more pace and attacking flair.

Now looking ahead to this weekend, Pacheco will make some changes. Don Pati, Nate Brakeley, Cam Dolan, Zach Mizell, and Ryan Roundy are all scheduled to fly in to Southern California on Wednesday evening to join the team and get a day’s training in before the National All-Star Championships.

Pati, however, broke his arm on Saturday and will not be there. Jack Bristol, who was due to stay with the All Americans, will have to leave due to Air Force Academy commitments. So Pacheco is expected to bring in two new names as well as four healthy players who are with the All American 15s team in Ireland.

“We won’t have a lot of time with those guys, so we will be relying on the players who were with us in Glendale to get everyone else up to speed,” said Pacheco. The group from Ireland is big and tenacious on defense. Brakeley and Dolan both are very good at gaining and retaining possession in 7s. Roundy is simply a beast, and Mizell is a versatile and intelligent attacker.

All should help the team in Chula Vista, but what they showed in Glendale is a bit more than just training time, athleticism and fitness – they showed resilience in the face of adversity.