Delaware was knocked down a few times last weekend at the College 7s National Championships in College Station, Texas, but the Blue Hens kept getting back up.
They lost their second pool match to San Diego State, making the road to the Cup Quarterfinals tougher to hoe. Delaware responded with a 22-0 shutout of previously undefeated Lindenwood, claiming a spot in the top bracket for day two.
There they matched up with unbeaten Central Washington, one of the heavy contenders to win it all. They went down 12-7 in the first half, but reeled off 14 unanswered points to upset Central Washington and advance to the semifinals. Against a physical team that boasted the tournament’s best forward, Pat Blair, Delaware’s smallest player, captain Jimmy Kowalski, scored the tying try on a great individual effort.
“I’m confident in my teammates as well, but sometimes, when it’s a tie game or we’re down, I like the pressure. All the lights are on us, and I enjoy those situations,” said Kowalski.
“We knew going into the match-up they were going to be a physical team. They’re a big team. You can tell we’re one of the smaller teams here, but we’re fast and we’re ready for the challenge.”
The knockout punch was thrown in the next round, by eventual champs Arkansas State, who pounded Delaware 45-0. But the Blue Hens got off the canvas once more for the consolation game.
“We got together and I explained that opportunities and memories like getting a chance to play for even third place doesn’t always come around,” said Delaware 7s director Bjorn Haglid, “that we came out here to win and we will not leave the field with our last game as a loss, but rather going out as champions with a win.”
Kowalski echoed Haglid’s message.
“We definitely got a whooping from Arkansas State, but Jimmy definitely rallied us up. He was not having us going out on a loss,” said Delaware freshman Joe Roberts.
“He said if we can’t take first, we’re going to take the next best thing we can get and just played our butts off as hard as we could, and I’ve got to give Jimmy all the credit for that, because he really did push us through there.”
Down 10-5 in the first half of the consolation game against St. Mary’s, Delaware scored three tries, one from Kowalski, one from Roberts and one from Glen Thommes, to finish third in the country.
"We’ve got a lot of work to do, definitely, for the spring season coming up," said Roberts, "but just being able to get the opportunity to come down here and play has been awesome."
Editor's note: The Delaware players wanted to thank their 7s coaches, William ‘Biddy’ Boyle and Chris ‘Pudge’ Ryan for all their hard work in getting them prepared.