In a DI playoff of question-marks, the biggest question-mark has to be the OMBAC/Dallas/Denver/Santa Monica bracket.
All four teams have huge plusses to their games. All four have noticeable issues. None dominated their league, but none played badly, either.
OMBAC has a very effective backline and lots of depth (more on that later), but it’s been their back row that has performed as much as anything. Led by Joe Fontana, OMBAC’s forwards expect to have the measure the Dallas Harlequins.
What the Harlequins can offer is plenty of questions. They beat every team in Texas except Austin Blacks (lost 15-10, and tied 20-20), but there’s some question as to whether that means anything. The Texas league is not especially strong, and it’s clear that against a tougher defense – the Austin Blacks – they struggled to score points.
Even so, they blew out Provo to make it this far. Provo probably was flagging after a good fall season, so who knows how tough that was? Certainly the Harlequins forward pack got enough ball to get their backs to spread the Provo defense. OMBAC will be much more mobile, and tactically a more varied team than Provo.
Still that’s a tough game to predict. Same goes for Santa Monica against Denver Barbarians.
Santa Monica has a very smart backline, with wing Kelly Serfoss starting to collect tries. Flanker Taylor Manavian was an effective tackler for them against a big EPA Bulldog team in the Round of 32. That augments an experienced group that includes Ali Ross, due back from injury.
They take on a Denver Barbarian team that has been improving throughout the season. Catain Logan Collins has brought the team together while Coach Michael Mangan is working his way into the head coaching role. Lance French and Mangan have been leading the team as a tandem during the transition, and with that change it’s somewhat surprising to see a team play better as a unit.
But that’s what they have done. Max de Achaval remains a superb points machine. Kyle Hitt and Phil White are playing well in the backs, as is Taylor Howden.
It likely comes down to which set of forwards can get the most ball. Both teams are capable of scoring a lot of points, so it’s likely good goalkicking and good defense at the right time could turn the game.
This entire part of the DI club bracket is guesswork, then. All four teams are capable of winning two on the weekend.
Note - teams with USA-potential players may be without those athletes for Sunday. If a player has been invited to camp, he will not play on the second day. Players such as Zach Pangelinan, for example, will be missed.