It’s going to be a long season for the Air Force Academy, but the players and coach Joe Muehlbauer don’t mind.
Already Air Force has beaten Idaho State 82-19, and this weekend, after having to miss the Aspen Ruggerfest due to military duties, handled the Omaha GOATS 59-28.
“It was good of Omaha that they hosted us,” said Muehlbauer. “We both had the open weekend. We’re putting a lot into our 15s this fall.”
Air Force will be hosting Navy and finish off their fall with a trip to West Points, marking this as the first year in a long time (we’d have to check but we’re thinking 2004 or 2005) that all three major Service Academies will play each other, A-side v A-side, in one season.
Air Force was led by the continuingly impressive play of lock forward Jack Bristol, who dominates the lineout and, with his busy summer playing 7s for the All Americans, shows improved mobility and ball skills.
New scrumhalf Dan Lange scored a hat trick against Omaha and showed plenty of skill. Converted from fullback, Lange is an imposing, gritty halfback. He combines well with flyhalf Austin Halle, who directed the backs well.
While they are working hard at 7s, the Air Force team also has high expectations in 7s, and once November rolls around they will be full-on into Olympic rugby.
“Our freshmen are all new to rugby,” said Muehlbauer. “And we’ve been playing a lot of 7s through the summer. The guys have really responded to it, especially the new players. They are really into it, so we want to make a push there.”
All of this is helped by the improving status for rugby on the Air Force Academy campus. After several years of difficulty brought on by themselves, the Air Force rugby team is now performing well, not getting into trouble, and being rewarded.
A first-ever game on the famed Terrazzo right in the middle of the Colorado Springs campus against Utah last spring (a game the Falcons could well have won), will be followed up with a similar matchup this fall against Navy.
“The guys are doing what they need to be doing,” said Muehlbauer. “And we, myself and our Officer in Charge, feel we’re on the front food with the administration. We’re playing on the Terrazzo again, and that’s going to be great. It’s good, because we’ve got a lot of rugby to play.”