For the first time in both programs’ short but decorated histories, No. 14 Lindenwood and No. 3 Life will meet Saturday in Marietta, Ga.
Life enters the game on the heels of a 45-15 defeat of Penn State Saturday and having played seven first-side games this semester. Lindenwood, from suburban St. Louis, has started its spring campaign much later due to weather. The Lions are 2-1 since the break, with hugely lopsided wins over Wisconsin and Arkansas and a close loss to the Chicago Griffins.
Davenport entered its first-ever match against Life similarly to Lindenwood – with limited game time under its belt and a lot of success against lower-level teams. The Panthers were run 53-0 in Marietta, citing match fitness and acclimation to the speed of the game as primary reasons. The Lions hope to avoid a similar fate.
“If you’re playing games of the level we’re about to play Saturday every week in, week out, then there’s nothing that’s going to surprise you, and we’ve tried our best to prep our guys for that,” said Lindenwood head coach Ron Laszewski.
“I would say about half our team has played many, many games at the level we’re about to play on Saturday. I’m not worried, but its’ something to definitely take into consideration. I just don’t want the guys to be overwhelmed by anything, and I don’t think they will.”
This match will be the Lions’ second this season against elite college competition. They played Davenport to a 14-10 loss in Elkhart, Ind. in November. And later this spring the defending DII champs host Arkansas State.
“We’re getting to the point in our program where we’re putting a lot of points on a lot of teams in conference, so we upped our schedule to test ourselves, and we don’t want to have any false sense of reality, so this will be a very good test for us. We’re really looking forward to it. The guys are amped,” said Laszewski.
“This is the kind of game you want to play. I think these games are a lot more fun, win lose or draw, than a glorified win when you’re rolling up a lot of points on teams. These are the ones that you look forward to. You want the test, you want to see how you rate against the best, and we’ll see.”
The Lions and Running Eagles actually have similar strengths – great Nos. 9, 10 and 15 – and the two best fullbacks in college rugby might be on the field in Life’s Joe Cowley and Lindenwood’s Morgan Findlay (Though Dartmouth’s Madison Hughes should certainly be considered in any debate).
Cowley has had his chances to be seen by selectors and he’s been involved in high performance camps and setups, while Findlay hasn’t yet caught the eye of those scouting for the All Americans and Eagles. He’s a great counter-attacker and an impressive all-around player. Look for his name in the box score.
Lindenwood also has a new No. 9 to counter Life’s Jake McFadden. Mickey Bateman, a former New Zealand U17 player, graduated from King’s College in November, turned 18 earlier this month and will be coordinating the Lions’ attack. “I see him as a team leader for many years to come for Lindenwood,” Laszewski said of Bateman.
Just outside of him wearing No. 10 will be the American-born, Australian-raised Gabe Farley, a converted center, like Life flyhalf Colton Cariaga.
“They’re both just 18 years old, but good players. They’ll play their role, and I’m pretty confident in their performance,” Laszewski said of Bateman and Farley.
Lindenwood also sports a talented back row. Chilean U20 player Sebastian Kalm is at No. 8, Colorado Springs product Tyler Black is at openside and one of the few seniors on the team, Trevor Locke, a St. Charles, Mo. native, is at blindside. All three loose forwards are capable ruckers and hard ball carriers with high motors. They’ll be instrumental in the effort toward slowing down and disrupting Life’s attack.
The game kicks off at 12pm ET and will be webcast, barring technical difficulties, at Life’s site.