|Schuylkill River being swarmed by OMBAC. Dobson Images|
|Youngbloodz with ball. Dobson Images|
|Denver trying to avoid the upset to Youngbloodz. Dobson Images|
The first upset of day one saw Youngbloodz come back to knock off the Denver Barbarians. The Barbos, at Nationals for the sixth-straight summer, led 10-0 at halftime. However, Youngbloodz, in their first Nationals appearance, scored 12 unanswered points in the second half to win 12-10.
Denver seemed to have stolen possession from the Minneapolis-based team near the end of the game and looked poised to run out the clock, but a flagrant late shoulder charge from a Barbo forward gave Youngbloodz possession again, and shortly thereafter, captain Nick Johnson busted through Denver’s defense and under the posts, lining up the game-winning conversion.
Schuylkill River, the only territorial champion in Pool D, also made an impression early on, nearly blanking OMBAC 24-5. The MARFU champs didn’t have any Belmont-esque blowouts, but they did go 3-0 playing patient defense and opportunistic offense.
“A lot of time they had the ball like 20 times in a row and we finally took it and went 90 yards for a try,” said Schuylkill’s top try-scorer Greg Ambrogi. “Just getting each other’s back was huge, and it’s tough when you’re playing defense the entire time, but we pulled it off.”
Despite being the only TU champ, few likely saw Schuylkill River as a threat entering the tournament, which they fed off.
“I feel like some people knew about us, but we were definitely still an underdog, especially coming out of MARFU,” Ambrogi added. “Besides NOVA, a lot of MARFU teams haven’t performed well out here, so we came out with a chip on our shoulder that we had to just prove that the best team in MARFU can compete out here.”
Finishing second in Pool D was Youngbloodz. In their first Nationals berth ever, they’ll still be playing for a Cup title on day two.
“It’s a great honor to be here and to get to this point,” said Johnson, whose played for the Youngblodz since the club was started five years ago.
“We just came here with the expectation of seeing what kind of level of p’ay was at Nationals and trying to come up to that level, and we’ve had a good couple of matches against the Lions throughout the season, so we knew that level was set, and it turns out they’ve brought us up to the level we are.”
If Youngbloodz wants to continue the Cinderella run, another step up is necessary, as the Exiles await them in the quarterfinals. Lining up across from Schuylkill River is Middlesex.
Schuylkill River 24-5 OMBAC
Youngbloodz 12-10 Denver
Schuylkill River 21-12 Youngbloodz
Denver 10-5 OMBAC
Youngbloodz 21-5 OMBAC
Schuylkill River 21-14 Denver