RUGBYMag.com was as guilty as anyone, looking at the Mid-Atlantic Conference DI teams in early September and discussing the contenders – Norfolk, PAC, Maryland, Schuylkill River, those were the names we bandied about.
Well look at who’s in 1st – none of those, but the Baltimore-Chesapeake Brumbies. After shocking Schuylkill River 27-14, B-C is 5-2, and while Norfolk is only a point behind and with a game in hand, it’s still a lofty world the Brumbies find themselves in.
“It’s great,” said captain Ryan Burns, who was asked to look back on his team’s 30-28 defeat of Maryland at Maryland, a game that started a three-game losing streak for the Exiles. “That road game against Maryland was huge. We knew then we were on the right track, but really it started since week one of practice. We knew that it was going to take a few weeks to implement what we wanted to do, but we were going to do it.”
Head Coach Steve Elliott has a regular core of players who know each other well, and the shakeup addition has been Dean Wharekura, the assistant coach who has helped usher in a new game plan.
“Dean has a lot of knowledge, and what he’s brought to the team has augmented what Steve has done,” said Burns. “He focuses on the attack, but our defense has improved tremendously, too. The guys bought in quickly and they have made it all happen.”
Energized by a new plan on the field, Baltimore has been able to handle hiccups along the way. They were missing two key players against Maryland, and won anyway. They were missing four against Schuylkill, and shut down the Philadelphia team’s offense.
“With the structure we have, the guys on the B side can just step in,” said Burns. “We feel really good about the performances we’ve put in.”
Still, it’s a long season, and a long fall that’s not over. Baltimore next faces Raleigh in North Carolina. The Vipers have struggled, but beat Maryland this past weekend (the Exiles started really strong, but have had all sorts of defensive troubles of late). Then they host Pittsburgh before visiting a PAC team that, having started poorly, is back above .500 and threatening. With Norfolk facing PAC and Raleigh on the road, it could be that the fall ends as it stands now, with an unexpected club on top.