Three months ago the University of Florida team won the Challenge Bracket (basically the Bowl) at the USA 7s CRC.
To do that, the Gators had to win three games on the trot on the second day of competition. That win was a big confidence boost to a 7s program that is still finding its feet. This past weekend, despite losing several key players to graduation, the Gators got on the winning track once again.
After sending what was essentially their 2nds to play in the first of the Florida college 7s Series last week, the Gator 1sts entered this time, and won. It wasn’t easy, as Florida had to really tough it out to be last week’s champs Central Florida 12-10 in the final, but still Florida won.
“After the CRC we did lose some key players like Brett Stubbs, Will Greaves, and Jordan Manning,” said Lucas Baistrocchi.
But after playing Life University in 15s last week, and losing, they realized what they needed to do to make up for those losses.
“Although the result didn't favor us, we picked up on what we had to work on and worked on it this past week in preparation for the second leg of the Florida 7s,” Bastrocchi added. “The first leg was played by mostly B-side players, and they did outstanding, getting 3rd place. This weekend, however, we had our entire squad playing for the first time together.”
Florida started well, shutting out Florida Gulf Coast 43-0. They followed that up with a 34-12 win over Southern Florida, and a tight game 24-17 over Florida State.
That set up the semifinal against Emrby-Riddle, which the Gators won 25-10. Meanwhile, Central Florida was hoping to build on winning the first tournament in Naples. UCF downed Emrby-Riddle 45-0 and Florida’s 2nds 34-0. They then dispatched Florida State 24-7 in the semis to set up the final.
“UCF has a very strong, fit squad,” said Baistrocchi.
And they proved it, going up 10-0 at halftime. But in the second half senior Mitch Taulbee scored in front of the posts and Baistrocchi hit the conversion to make it 10-7. Then, with almost no time left, Baistrocchi ran weak side, drew a defender, and offloaded to sophomore Geronimo Guzman, who raced in for the winner.
It was a close-run thing, but a signal that Central Florida can play, and so can Florida.
Baistrocchi said the players who experienced the CRC know more about how to win tournaments and played hard, and they were bolstered by the arrival of talented Australia exchange student Alexander Healey.
“Clearly, we still have a lot of work to do, but our goal is to qualify for Nationals in November,” said Baistrocchi. This was a good start.