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In Jonesboro, Ark. Life defeated Arkansas State 32-15 to win the Huckaby Cup. The Running Eagles used a strong second half to pull away from the Red Wolves and take home their third consecutive Huckaby Cup.
Life jumped out to an early 7-0 lead through Connor Mooneyham. Blane Mcllroy placed a well executed up and under kick and after recovering the ball Mooneyham went over in the corner.
Arkansas State responded with a try from Kirk Pretorius. The Red Wolves caused problems for the Running Eagles early in the game with their forwards. After turning over the Running Eagles inside their own 22, Pretorius powered over to cut the lead to 7-5. A penalty a few minutes later gave ASU its first lead.
“Arkansas State had a great game plan approaching us at the set piece, particularly at the line out,” said Life coach Scott Lawrence. “It caused a lot of problems for us early in the game.”
Life struck back twice through Mcllroy’s boot and went into the break up 13-8. The Running Eagles extended their lead in the second half through a pair of tries from Mitch Wilson. Both came off kicks but in different fashions. With the ball loose, Cody Melphy kicked the ball ahead and Wilson jumped on it for the score. The second came off a well-placed kick from Mcllroy in behind the defense that Wilson dove on in the try zone.
“It was one of the adaptations that we made,” Lawrence said of the kicking. “They were playing a lot of four and five up on us in that zone. I think we picked that up as part of the game and played that through,”
Up 25-8 and playing tremendous defense, Life stymied the ASU attack. The Running Eagles made some in game adjustments and took advantage of slippery conditions to maintain a comfortable lead.
“The men really played well. Arkansas State really kind of had us physically. With the weather, it probably allowed us to put two men in on the tackle because the risk of two on one conversions was a little bit lower. It allowed us to compete with them a little bit more physically in those channels. I think if had been drier we may have had to do something different,” Lawrence added.
Zander Van Schalkwyk iced the match with an intercept that he took the distance. Life led 32-8 before surrendering a late score to finish 32-15.
For Arkansas State, it is still looking for its first Huckaby Cup. Playing for the first time in front of a home crowd, and program founder Curt Huckaby, the Red Wolves hoped to bring the cup home. For both teams, however, it was more than a game. Huckaby has been an integral part of both programs, starting ASU and advising Life in its infancy. Huckaby, who was recently diagnosed with ALS, couldn’t stay for the whole match due to his health, but his presence was known. In fact, both teams had the honor of hearing Curt’s son and former ASU coach, Matt Huckaby, provide some words of encouragement after the match.
“It was great that Curt could be there for the game. He has always been a big fan of a good hard fought match…..It was great that he got to see the game and both teams played well. We were grateful for that. His son Matt talked to both teams at the end of the game and that certainly meant a lot to us,” Lawrence concluded.