A running theme through this week in the Midwest DI competition has been – it’s still August!.
This is followed by – it’s Labor Day Weekend!
And yes, the season begins this weekend. No team feels ready, including, and perhaps none more unready that the Chicago Lions.
Of the players who spent a dogged summer looking for a national 7s title, only one, Matt Degutes, is suiting up for the fall. Head Coach Marty Wiggins also had to deal with some retirements and players moving – always the late-summer lot of an American club coach – but he has slowly put together a new squad to face the league this year.
Many of the Lions’ opponents aren’t too concerned for the Chicago club, knowing as they do that the Lions recruit very well.
“We’re a very different team,” Wiggins told RUGBYMag.com. “The 7s guys told me they needed a bit of a break, and you do have a bunch of guys who have gone kind of non-stop. SO we have some untested talent coming in.”
Former USA U19 player Dave Selimos is captain of the team and will be asked to shoulder a heavy leadership burden, with “Goose” Degutes helping, too. The rest of the team is heavy with college talent, and 2nd-siders moving up.
Having the 2nd-siders move up is an important part of building a club, but will be difficult this year. Many DI clubs in the Midwest have said that fielding a B side will be tough, especially early on. Finding games for his extras is a major concern for Wiggins, who also knows that the DII schedules are jam-packed, leaving little wiggle room for a friendly here and there.
So who the Lions are, and how they bring in the new guys is the question of the fall. They should be fine, say most observers, as the talent pool remains deep in Chicago and some veteran leadership remains. But this will be a learning experience for all.