The top four teams in New England square off Saturday, when Burlington hosts New Haven and Portland takes on Amoskeag. All four teams are 5-1 on the season, and the winners will wind up first and second in the league table.
Both games are matches of recently DI teams taking on traditionally DII teams. In the case of Burlington and New Haven, these teams haven’t met any time in recent memory. Burlington went undefeated to win the league last year, while New Haven finished fifth in DI, one spot out of being able to remain in DI. While New Haven was originally disappointed in the relegation, it’s tackling the new challenge head on.
“We realized, take what we’re given and run with it. As soon as we started practicing we were ready to go,” said New Haven captain Andrew Marullo.
“We think we can win this league, so that’s kind of been our goal since we found out about [the move to DII]. Everyone’s been high spirited once we found about it. Competition is competition.”
And Marullo isn’t underestimating the competitiveness of Burlington.
“We know that they won the league last year, so they definitely have something to bring to the table, so it should be a real tough match,” he said. “Anyone who’s 5-1 in this league right now is good. It’s pretty competitive.”
New Haven’s top try scorers this season have been wing Chris Andreozzi and fullback Elliott Wangaard, who’ve benefited from quality pack play.
“Our backline has done very well this season. I always like to hype our pack. Our pack is very solid, but we’ve been doing very well getting the ball out to our backs, and our wings and 15 have been doing a lot of scoring this year,” added Marullo. “I feel like we’ve been doing very well keeping possession, maintaining ball and then getting it out to those guys and letting them do some work.”
Amoskeag and Portland, though they haven’t always been in the same league, are a little more familiar with each other. They played a friendly last spring, with both teams likely missing some key players, and Amoskeag won by a few tries.
Saturday, though, Portland has every expectation of being able to win the game.
“Definitely we want to be competitive. We know they’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of talented guys. They have a great pack, and we’ve prepared for that. We’ve got to support our own guys going into contact, and on the flip side we’ve got to defend around the ruck in the first couple of channels,” said Portland captain Colin Talbot.
“We don’t think they’re anymore special than any other team. We’re just taking it week to week, and whoever we got, we got, and we’re going to take them on like any other team and be prepared to win.”
Portland prides itself on being able to attack teams from multiple angles, which they’ll try to do Saturday. One of their main ballcarriers in the forwards is lock Nick Marchant, and the main line breaker in the backs is outside center Rocco Andreozzi.
“[Andreozzi] just seems to escape every tackle. He’s a good runner, a really good runner. [Marchant’s] a big guy, tough to take down. Doesn’t quit. He’s all around the field,” said Talbot.
“I think we’re pretty well rounded. We have a good pack. We have a good forward game, good heavy ball, but also when we have overloads we can really shoot to the outside.”