Here we go again. Saturday’s DI-A semifinal in Jonesboro, Ark. will be the fifth 15s match between Arkansas State and Life in the last two seasons. The Running Eagles went 2-0 against Arkansas State in the spring of 2012, and they’ve split a two-game series with the Red Wolves this spring.
“Your game plan changes a little bit from team to team based on their strengths and weaknesses, but we’ve played them so many times,” said Life’s Cam Dolan, “so I think on both sides everybody’s cognizant of who’s a threat where and how each team plays.”
Every Red Wolf knows Dolan is a threat, sure, but they’ve never seen him line up where he probably will Saturday – on the wing. The semifinal will be Dolan’s second game back from an ACL tear, and he’s on the wing to give the Running Eagles some experience and composure in the back three. In his first game on the wing against Army last week, Dolan was a difference maker.
“It’s a little different, obviously, than lining up at eight,” said Dolan. “I think my skill set’s alright for it, with high balls and counter attacks and stuff. It’s not too much different. At 8 you have to drop back a lot anyways, so it’s nothing too out of the ordinary.”
Seeing the 6-6 Dolan barreling down the touch line will be out of the ordinary for Arkansas State wingers Zinzan Elan-Putick and Gavin Brown, both of whom are safely under 6-feet-tall.
“Gavin is probably about 5-7 on a good day, so Cam’s got almost a foot on him,” said Arkansas State coach Alex Houser.
“But Gavin, despite his small stature, he’s probably the strongest guy on the team, certainly when it comes to squatting. And he’s got good tackle technique. He’s not afraid. Hell, we have Dylan Carrion, who is over a foot shorter and a hundred pounds less than Cam, and he brought him down a couple of times when we played Life in 7s down in Texas.”
Outside of Dolan’s inclusion in the lineup, it will be largely the same Life and Arkansas State teams playing this weekend as in the regular season. And with only two points between them this spring, Saturday’s contest will likely come down to who makes fewer mistakes.
“In both games I think we could say we could have tackled better, played better defense and just executed on scoring opportunities. It’s just those simple things really, just executing the basics,” said Life captain Colton Cariaga.
“I think it also comes down to who’s more switched on and how each team responds to adversity. I think those are the two keys in the game.”
Arkansas State doesn’t have an All American to introduce to this year's rendition of the rivalry this weekend, as their injured star, Zac Mizell, made it back in time for the second regular season meeting with Life. But the Red Wolves might still have a few surprises up their sleeves.
“We’ve kind of been preparing for adding in some new things since the start of the season,” said Houser, “so we’ll have a couple of different looks that we’ve got on offer. Whether or not the guys call them is a different thing.”