Life hosts Arkansas State in the de facto Mid-South Conference Championship Game Saturday in Marietta, Ga. Both the Red Wolves and Running Eagles swept Davenport this season, and Arkansas State won the first meeting between these rivals 28-22 March 9 in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Running Eagles enter the game a little beat up – Cam Dolan is not quite back from injury yet, lock Jimmy Lynch is recovering from a broken fibula suffered a few weeks ago, and prop OJ Auimatagi is out with a ruptured Achilles. Flyhalf Colton Cariaga is nursing a sprained ankle and may or may not go.
“It’ll be a chance for some younger players to step up and play versus one of the best teams in the country, and they’ll be looking forward to it,” said Life coach Dan Payne.
“This time of year it’s the nature of our sport. Sometimes you dodge the injury bug, and sometimes they come in waves. As in life, there’s nothing you can do fretting about it. Best thing to do is step up and manage/challenge the excitement of adversity. We have some exuberant and excited players that will get the chance to show they can compete at this level.”
Arkansas State enters the game playing extremely well. The Red Wolves hit their stride with a 60-27 win over Davenport April 30. And the Red Wolves’ second side proved Life isn’t the only team in the Mid-South that has some spirited scrimmages on their own campus by beating Lindenwood’s top side a week later.
“Arkansas State is playing a very expansive and fundamentally sound game right now,” said Life coach Dan Payne. As the season has progressed, their accuracy in playing with their width and the depth with which they’re running onto the ball continues to improve.
“They’ve got a really solid group of experienced players, mixed in with some good, young, talent. It’s obvious Alex has stepped right in and continued to build on the standard he and Matt [Huckaby] already had achieved. The program has kept moving in the right direction – up.”
Last season, Life swept Arkansas State and was knocked out of the postseason in the semifinals, while the Red Wolves made it all the way to the final. And both Life and ASU have already clinched spots in the DI-A Quarterfinals. So Saturday’s game isn’t a do-or-die, but bragging rights are certainly on the line.
The Mid-South winner will move on to play either Kutztown or Ohio State. They’ll play the Golden Bears if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten title or if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten and lose to KU in a challenge match. The Mid-South runner-up will travel to Army.
If Ohio State beats Wisconsin, Saturday's game between Life and ASU could be a National Championship Game preview. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, Life and ASU could meet in the semifinals.
See Gameday Program Here.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 1pm ET and will be webcast live. Check out Life’s website for webcast link and details.