Old Puget Sound Beach travels to the Chicago Griffins Saturday in a key game for both.
The Griffins are not in playoff contention anymore, but can stake claim to a .500 record and perhaps a little scoreline payback with a victory in Chicago Saturday.
It’s Old Boy Day at the Griffin’s field, with former players coming back to see how the team is doing, and a high school curtain-raiser to boot.
The Fenwick High School team, coached by former Griffin Carl Dittmer, will take on Lake Forest HS, coached by fomer Griffin Eddie Giangiorgi.
The Griffins will also brace for a tough, physical battle with a team they tested heavily in Seattle in March. Chicago will be without lock forward Charlie Jacobsen, who hurt his hamstring in the final minutes of last week’s clash with SFGG.
But the Griffins still feature a formidable pack, with prop Tim Paulson, lock Graham Harriman and flanker Erik Jacobsen all having good seasons.
They face an Old Puget Sound pack that is perhaps underrated. Of those, rookie flanker Kellen Gordon has been very solid, getting involved in play and defending dependably.
“I think you see how well Kellen has done for OPSB, you see what a value was for us,” said Central Washington coach Tony Pacheco of the CWU product.
Meanwhile captain and prop forward Josh Osborne will relish a battle up front.
“Chicago gave us our most physical challenge so far this season,” Osborne told RUGBYMag.com. “We know this will be an even bigger physical test, playing in Chicago. What we have to do as forwards is focus on our jobs – get our backs good, clean ball and be there in support.”
OPSB is benefitting from a week off, one that sits perfectly in the middle of their season.
“Having three games on then a week off, and three more games, is perfect,” said Osborn. “We are able to get a little rest right when we need it. Guys were banged up a bit but we’re feeling good now.”
OPSB will be without flanker Andrew Durutalo, who is with the USA 7s team. But Tim Jacobsen is experienced and is an excellent replacement. They are also without Mike Palefau, also playing 7s. Therein lies another story – Beach’s first fullback of the season, Isimeli Daveta, was put out for the season against the Griffins. They managed to get Palefau in to replace the dynamic Daveta, and Palefau has been superb.
Now without Palefau, OPSB brings in former USA wing/fullback Jeremy Nash, another feisty runner who can play off the cuff.
Asked if there was any bad blood between the teams as the result of the Daveta injury, Osborn shook his head.
“We miss Isi, it was tough to lose him, but you can’t focus on stuff like that,” he said. “That would just throw us off our game. We’re just going to worry about our game plan and be as prepared as we can.”
There are lots of exciting matchups in this game in the backs. Emosa Vocago is a dynamic scrumhalf, but Cal Doggett is a tough defender and dependable #9 for Chicago. Flyhalf Roland Suniula has the ability to change the game for Chicago, but OPSB’s midfield of William Rasileka and Pate Tuilevuka can, too.
Chicago has two of the better wing pairings, especially in defense, in the league, in Brendan Brown and Pat Marek. But blink at the wrong time and Fili Botitu and Miles Craigwell will be by you and scoring.
This promises to be a thrilling match, and one both teams desperately want.
Deerpath Community Park, Lake Forest, Ill. Saturday
Fenwick HS v Lake Forest HS 11:30am
Old Puget Sound v. Chicago Griffins 2pm
Fox Valley v Chicago Griffins (CARFU Cup) 3:30pm