Life is hosting its first-ever home playoff game Saturday when they welcome Penn State to Marietta, Ga. For a 2pm ET kickoff. The game will be streamed live here.
"It’s pretty exciting. It’s fun to be able to bring any high-level game here, so we’re excited to host and grateful that Penn State is making the trip down," said Life coach Dan Payne. "Whenever you attach a playoff game, the stakes are obviously higher and the atmosphere gets a charge out of it."
The Running Eagles are undefeated this season, with two impressive wins over Arkansas State, and Penn State is 5-1 having dropped the final game of the regular season to Army by one point.
Saturday’s contest will be the first-ever between Life and Penn State, but both teams have been doing their homework to become more familiar with their foes.
“They’ve got some really good, quick backs. I’ve played with Colton (Cariaga) and Cam (Dolan) before, they’re both really good players, and they just run a good pattern and they keep working at it,” said Penn State scrumhalf Chris Saint.
“I noticed a lot of the games in the second half they really seem to (pull) away. Both Arkansas State games they were able to turn it on in the second half, too.”
“Their forwards are really big. I’d say 1-8 they’re probably bigger than us in the forwards, so we’ve got to try and neutralize them there. Theyr’e a very big forward pack, and they did a lot of damage in the matches that we’ve watched with their pick-and-goes and they’re able to just methodically move through teams,” said Payne of Penn State.
“Obviously, Chris Saint is a very gifted halfback, and delivering to (Blaise) Feury with Joe Backer at the back, they’ve got some good leadership and some strong feet to get out of their territory, as well.”
Life’s pack will be bolstered by the return of No. 8 Cam Dolan and utility forward Paul Bester. Dolan sat out the final regular season game with a concussion and Bester was lost early on because of injury. Both are healthy. In their absence against Arkansas State, Life struggled mightily in the set pieces, especially the lineout.
“They’re kind of our primary and our secondary lineout personnel, and when we lose them it kind of throws things amiss a bit, but I think one of the best things that happened as a result of that is it gives a lot of the younger guys a chance to establish themselves,” said Payne.
“Things were kind of shaky for about 50-55 minutes of that Arkansas State game, until they got their feet under them and kind of pushed a bit of their own identity. That was probably a good thing, but having (Dolan and Bester) back on the field will be a good thing.
For Penn State, the most important piece of the puzzle against Life will be suffocating the Life ball carriers with navy blue jerseys.
“We’ve got to match up just by not giving them that time or that space, by coming up hard on them, not giving them the time to react or get going,” said Saint. “I know they’re fast, but if we can just slow them down a little bit by just putting them under pressure, that’s our plan.”
If Life wins, they’ll host the winners of BYU vs. UCLA. If Penn State wins, they’ll either travel to Provo, Utah or Los Angeles, depending on the aforementioned game’s outcome.
Life and Penn State both boast teams, and they'll return the bulk of their lineups next season, so this game could be a preview of a playoff match-up further down the road.