The DIII national championship final was a classic game of the old and the new. New Orleans came with all the experience needed to win a championship match and Philly came with a team full of heart. But at the end of the game, experience was the key for NOLA as they took the DIII championship, 36-20.
The story of the first half was one of Philly’s mistakes being exploited by the boot of NOLA full back, Andrew Quackenbos and despite a lone unconverted try by Philly wing, Brennan Conway in the 10th minute and a penalty kick by Philly center, James Rosato in the 29th minute, NOLA lead at half time, 15-8.
“We gave it everything,” said player and coach Conway Maraki, “but when you make mistakes, you pay for it.
“We have a young team with only 4 players over 30 and everyone else under 27,” continued Maraki. “Inexperience certainly contributed to our loss today.”
NOLA’s experience showed in the second half as they applied what seemed like never ending pressure on Philly. However, Philly never backed down and kept up their defending in admirable style.
A charge down kick by center Eric Mackintosh, in the opening minutes of the second half, inside Philly’s 22, resulted in a try – followed up by a conversion by Quackenbush – saw NOLA open the score margin, 22-8.
Philly answered with a try of their own when the center combination of John Knab and Rosato opened up the NOLA defense enough for full back, Louis Tulio, to sneak through and cross the try line. Rosato converted and Philly found themselves within striking distance of NOLA’s score at 61 minutes, 22-15.
As if not to be outdone, an over throw by Philly just outside their own 22, was snapped up by NOLA wing, Kevin Ndongi, who raced over the line to score and give Quackenbush the opportunity to use his boot and add more points to the board, 29-15 in the 63rd minute.
Once again Philly came back at NOLA, and in the 72nd minute, after a series of keeping the ball alive by Brandon Unruh, Tulio was able to complete the forward movement by Philly and cross the line for his second try of the match, 29-22.
With only a try separating the two teams and the clock ticking, it was NOLA who sealed the deal by moving the ball towards Philly’s goal line, after a series of pick-and-go moves. This gave NOLA’s 8th man, Peter Bell, the opportunity to crash over the line and the DIII Championship title belonged to NOLA as Quackenbush finished it off by converting the try. The full time score was 36-20.
NOLA’s Andrew Quackenbush was deservedly named MVP of the DIII National Championship tournament and had this to say about his performance during the final, “I attempted to keep the same mindset throughout the entire tournament and focused on continuing to keep doing what I have always been doing.”
Asked whether he was concerned when Philly scored in the 72nd minute and brought the score within 7 points of NOLA’s 29 points, he responded by saying, “Having the fantastic support of our travelling NOLA fans cheering for us and the faith I have in my teammates, I had complete confidence that we would stay composed until the end.”
NOLA Head Coach, Trip McCormick, complimented his team for their great defensive play and had this to say about the championship encounter and his team, “Our game plan was all about defense and giving up only 21 points to a team like Philly is a compliment to our defense.”
McCormick went on to add, “The key to a champion team is depth and I believe that as the best division III team in the country we have a committed team who practice hard and give of themselves 100 %. I am so proud of their achievement today.”
New Orleans 36
Tries: Mackintosh, Ndongi, Bell
Conversions: Quackenbush 3
Penalty conversions: Quackenbush 5
Tries: Conway, Tulio 2