There’s a three-way race for supremacy in the West-Central, one of the toughest DII leagues in the country. Five of the last six seasons, the West champion has come out of the West-Central, and Omaha, Tulsa and the St. Louis Bombers are trying to make it six of seven. If Tulsa wins the West, it'll be its fourth such title since 2007. Omaha is looking for its third in three years. St. Louis is hoping for its first since dropping to DII from the Super League in 2008.
Tulsa (3-0) leads the league having knocked off the GOATS in Oklahoma. Omaha (3-1) is in second having beaten St. Louis in Nebraska. And the Bombers (2-1) get their first chance to score a home win against one of the contenders Saturday in Missouri. In a league that essentially spans three large states (four if you include Kansas for KCRFC), home field advantage is huge. And the Bombers need to make sure it doesn’t go to waste Saturday.
“I think that’s extremely important this year, because if you don’t get the home win, you’ve got a lot of pressure on you because the next game’s going to be at their home ground, which is never easy, and it’s going to even more challenging,” Bombers coach Ben Meyers said.
“It’s a pretty big grudge match between Tulsa and the Bombers,” added Tulsa coach Steve Ingram. “It’s a pretty tough game, and that’s what I’ve been telling our boys to expect, especially on their home turf. They’re not going to give it to us. If we want it, we’re going to have to take it. We’re traveling with a strong squad, and if we get the right bounces I think we’ll be doing fine.”
Both Tulsa and St. Louis are in the midst of youth movements. The Bombers have gotten an influx of college graduates this season, and they’re making an impact right away. Dan Kloeckner, Mark Menne and Ryan MacDonald from Mizzou are all contributing big minutes, as was James Sills from Central Missouri before going down with an injury.
Also helping out is newcomer Alex Ochoa, formerly of Occidental College and the Oxy Olde Boys in Southern California.
“He’s doing really, really well,” said Meyers of Ochoa. “Incredible defensive player and runs really strong.”
Tulsa is a year ahead in its youth movement. The team was really young last year after an influx of talent from the Green Country high school league, and those players are a year older and more mature. Chief among them is hooker Britin Stone.
“He comes out of the Bixby football program. He was a running back, so he’s a good runner with the ball,” said Ingram of the 20-year-old. “He’s got a low center of gravity. He’s a hefty boy and he’s a lot quicker than he looks when he starts running.”
It’s the last game of the fall for both Tulsa and St. Louis, so on top of critical league points, peace of mind for the next few months is on the line Saturday.