In a turbid and unpredictable D1-A Pacific, one thing has become clear – St. Mary’s is the dominant team – but many other questions remain.
Cal Poly, UCLA and Central Washington all remain in the hunt, with UC Davis, having lost twice and still having St. Mary’s on their docket, trailing somewhat. For Central, their 39-5 win over Davis this past weekend in Ellensburg sets them up nicely for their March 24 clash with St. Mary’s in Moraga.
The game itself wasn’t as straightforward as the 39-5 score might indicate. Davis had plenty of good scoring opportunities early on, and looked set in the first 20 minutes to score. But they passed up space on the outside that – with simple hands out – could have resulted in a try. Then, still on defense, Central’s Alex Reher nabbed the ball and was gone for 90 meters.
That certainly took the wind out of the Aggies’ sails.
“We worked hard to clean up the tackle contest,” said CWU Head Coach Bob Ford. “In the second half we were able to move the ball very well. But we’re still trying to get to a point where we can compete for a full 80 minutes.”
Ford has made some changes in the lineup, reworking his front row, especially, after CWU was out-scrummed by BYU in January. Jacob Bates was back for his first game since being injured, and provided plenty of leadership.
But for Ford, perhaps the most important things weren’t the result of the game, but the trappings.
Playing in their new rugby complex with the president of the university and his wife, and as many as 300 fans watching, was as big a deal as anything else.
“It was great to see the school president there, seeing the work the guys are putting in,” he said. “It was a sunny day at our new venue and a big day for us in building our program.”
So what does that mean for the conference? With Cal out and questions still swarming about what D1-A becomes in upcoming years, it’s easy to get caught up in speculations about the future. But for now, right now, all the teams are thinking about making the D1-A playoffs.
Things are certainly not decided. The March 24 CWU at St. Mary’s game will be important, but even if CWU loses that, they are in the hunt for a top-two place. They should probably be favored against UCLA in Ellensburg, which means that Cal Poly, even if they enter the final weekend at 1-2 will be playing CWU for a playoff place April 21 in San Luis Obispo.