Central Washington went 3-0 Friday to advance to the Cup Quarterfinals. The Wildcats opened the day with a 19-0 defeat of Texas followed by a 36-0 drubbing of Virginia and a match-up with also 2-0 Kutztown. The Golden Bears beat Virginia 50-0 and Texas 28-10.
The final game of the pool would decide who automatically advanced to the Cup Quarterfinals and who would depend on point differential to get them in. Kutztown and Central Washington had impressive differentials heading into the match, and KU opted to rest 7s All American Tim Acker, who tweaked something earlier in the day.
With these two teams having met the last two years in massive knock-out matches, the game was a showcase of concerted aggression that sometimes spilled over into foul play.
“It’s kind of like a rivalry now. Every big game we play them,” said Central’s Patrick Blair, who did his fair hare of bullying in the match. “There’s bound to be something dirty on both sides, but it’s whatever. It’s part of the game. I’m happy with the outcome.”
Kutztown drew first blood when Matthew Frederick flyhacked a poor Central Washington pass to start a break. 6-7 Mike Lawrenson advanced the ball further toward pay dirt, and Jamie Gregory eventually ended the drive with a try. The conversion was missed.
KU nearly extended its lead when Gareth Lourens took a sprint up the sideline before being caught. Central was penalized for tackling a player off the ball, and the Golden Bears kicked to the corner for a five-meter lineout. They went to a maul, committing five players to the breakdown, and spun it to the midfield for the massive Duke Makina. He crashed into contact, but lost the ball, ending what would have been a valuable scoring possession.
Central did break its drought when wing Shelby Williams sped up the touch line and cut violently against the grain, causing two would-be Kutztown tacklers to collide in touch, and jetted into the try zone.
Williams scored his second try to open the second half, and Alex Reher slotted the conversion, putting the Wildcats up 12-5.
Kutztown’s rebuttal came largely on the shoulders of Makina, who made three big carries in a matter of a couple of dozen seconds, with the third one ending in the try zone. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score tied at 12-12.
But Tanner Barnes and Jacob Bates scored a try a piece over the next two minutes to put the game away. Kutztown managed to join Central in the Cup Quarterfinals despite the loss.
Central finished second in this tournament last year, so a 3-0 start isn’t a goal reached. But, says Blair, this team has made the additions to accomplish what they came here to accomplish – win a National Title.
“Max (Narewski) is an impact for sure. Shelby on the wing, he’s fast. I can depend on him to make those tries late in the game to put us through,” said Blair.
“I feel good about our chances again. I feel like we’ve got a solid team we can put out there. There’s a lot more talent this year, I think. We’ve got Cal, Dartmouth, Davenport. Delaware came out and showed some power. I feel like we’ve got a better team and there’s better competition this year.”
Central draws Delaware in one quarterfinal and Kutztown gets Arkansas State in another.