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All but one position in the D1AA playoffs was confirmed this past weekend as the Mid-Atlantic Conference, Mid-American Conference, SCRC, and Chesapeake Conference held their semifinal and championship games.
St. Joseph’s University is the Mid-Atlantic Conference champion after running the table this weekend in the MARC semifinals and final.
The Hawks dispatched West Chester 24-7 in the semis Saturday at Temple University. Aram Kesh, Chris Curcio, and Mike Hoffman staked St. Joe’s to a 19-0 halftime lead. The two teams traded tries, but the Hawks, with their wide-open game plan, were in control.
Rowan blew by Temple, setting up the expected final against St. Joe's on Sunday. There, the Hawks' most recognizable names came through for a 27-11 win in the championship game.
St. Joe's Noah Niumataiwalu broke open the stalemate with a try, which Jimmy Wolfer converted. Wolfer then added a penalty for a 10-3 lead. The flyhalf’s boot added another three later before Kesh scored a crucial try to make it a three-score game at 20-3.
Saint Joseph's University Rugby courtesy of Sideline Photos pic.twitter.com/CA3qqEMmzY— SJU Recreation (@SJU_Recreation) November 6, 2017
In the second half, Rowan notched a try and a penalty, but Hoffman’s second try of the weekend put it away.
Likely the MARC won’t get a second seed to nationals. There are eight spots, four competing conferences, and one independent (AIC), and sources indicate that the MARC will be the conference that won’t have its second-place team compete in the D1AA playoffs.
The Mid-America Conference will have two teams competing in the playoffs — Bowling Green and Western Michigan. WMU has been on a tear of late, but the Moosemen were not able to get by BGSU in a 35-21 loss in Sunday's conference final.
Bowling Green defeated Cincinnati 32-22 on Saturday in the semis, and WMU beat Louisville 31-22.
The Falcons and Bearcats fought a see-saw battle that knotted the score at 17 apiece with 20 minutes left. With Cincinnati camped out on the BGSU goal line, Falcons captain Ryan Steinmetz broke the Bearcats' back with an interception and an 85-meter scoring run. Two more tries, including a pushover goal-line try, gave BGSU the victory.
Western Michigan wing Righa Righa led the Broncos in their semifinal victory over Louisville. The speedy wing scored two tries and hit on a pair of conversion kicks. With the score 26-22 and Louisville inching towards a win, Righa turned the corner on the outside for a try to give Western some breathing room in the final minutes of the match.
In the final on Sunday, Griffen Palmer opened the scoring with a penalty goal, and then Tim May’s try made it 8-0 for Bowling Green. Western Michigan had several chances to score, missing a penalty kick attempts and then getting held up in goal. But eventually the Moosemen got over to close the Bowling Green lead to one point at 8-7.
Just before halftime, the Falcons got one back, with May capping off a nice backline move to make it 15-7 at the break.
Once again, WMU stormed back to get within a point, and then an interception put the Moosemen up 21-15. But the final quarter of the game belonged to Bowling Green, as the Falcons showed some patience, got a Palmer penalty goal, and then added a try from Andrew Quisnell for a 23-21 lead. May scored his third to make it 30-21, and he got one more for good measure for the 35-21 final score.
And that’s the GAME!!! BG is MAC CHAMPS! AAHHH OOOOOHH!! 35-21 final score. #37peat??? Nationals we are coming for you.— BGSU Men's Rugby (@BGSUMensRugby) November 5, 2017
May was the star, for sure, but Palmer’s goalkicking was critical in a very close game. Both BGSU and WMU are expected to advance to the D1AA fall quarterfinals.
In the SCRC semifinals, Kentucky defeated Alabama 40-22, while Tennessee took care of South Carolina. The Wildcats then upended the Vols for the second time this year, 26-22, to win the conference final.
UK with a hard fought win and an SEC Championship over Tennessee 26 to 22 pic.twitter.com/Cq4q708YGU— Kentucky Men's Rugby (@WildcatRFC) November 5, 2017
Meanwhile, Mary Washington is already set for the D1AA playoffs, as the Mothers won the regular season in the Chesapeake. Elsewhere in the conference, Virginia Tech and James Madison both won this past weekend and Mount St. Mary’s lost, setting up a playoff between JMU and Virginia Tech for second place next week.
Likely D1AA Playoff Teams:
And either Virginia Tech or James Madison