In 2010, the West-North swept Texas in the Round of 32. That won’t happen this year, as Boulder has forfeited to the Austin Blacks. The Dallas Reds, who play host to the Denver Highlanders Saturday, will try to at least hold serve for Texas.
The Reds have been riddled with injuries this season, but coach Jeff Kohlberg says they’re back near full health.
“It’s been an up-and-down year for us. We started pretty good, and we were strong, and then we lost six of our starters. We’ll say right now, we’re not very deep. Our first 18 players can play with anybody anyplace. After that we have a problem,” he said.
“We kind of fell down, and then we picked ourselves up again and started to play pretty well, and then we had a rash of injuries. We lost three starters in one game, which gets into that depth problem. We finally got everybody healthy the final game of the season, with the exception of our flyhalf who has a grade-three shoulder separation.”
So of Dallas’ top 18, 17 will be suited up Saturday.
The Highlanders, like Dallas, reached the Sweet 16 in 2011, but were ousted 44-14 by Belmont Shore.
In the north, a battered Glendale will host Houston Athletic Rugby Club. The Raptors have played as tough a schedule as any DI team in the nation, going 2-1 against Super League sides. The last such match, a close loss to San Francisco Golden Gate, left Glendale without fullback James Paterson, No. 8 Nic Johnson and scrumhalf Daryl Furlong.
The Raptors won’t lose a step at scrumhalf, as former Eagle Andre Bachelet will fill in. He started at No. 9 in Glendale’s national title run last year.
No. 7 Mike Kenyon, who played very well against SFGG, sustained a back injury off the pitch this week and will be questionable. If he plays, he’ll slide in at No. 8 for Johnson, and Clint Camp will play No. 7.
Replacing Paterson is Regis grad Tyler Siegel. In his last outing, he scored a try and went 8-for-10 from the tee.
“He’s pretty valuable for points,” said Bullock of Siegel. “He’s got a big boot, so he can play fullback and kind of control things. I think he’s going to be a top player.”
The Kansas City Blues, second in the North, are hosting their first playoff game in a decade Saturday night, welcoming the Austin Huns. The Blues, formerly of the Super League, boast a young lineup of 20-somethings that’s starting to jell.
Scrumhalf Casey Cummings, wing Kevin Schwartze, fullback Jordan Neville, lock Ben Nelson and flanker Connor McDonough, among others, have now been playing together on the DI side for a couple of years, and they’re collectively maturing at the right time.
This spring the Blues tied Glendale and lost narrowly to Metropolis and Palmer, indicating the Huns could have a tough time in Kansas City.