University of Mary Washington is the fall D1AA champion after riding a wild second half to defeat St. Joseph’s 37-13 on Sunday in Greenville, SC.
St. Joe’s produced an impressive first 40 minutes, highlighted by a hard-nosed forward effort led by lock Mickey Chapple. And with Jimmy Wolfer unleashing his slick sidestepping, UMW found itself backpedaling more than the Mothers are used to against their opponents.
Wolfer put St. Joe’s ahead 3-0 with a penalty goal, and while Mary Washington replied with a try, St. Joe’s led again after a long period of attack. The Hawks tried to put it over wide and finally saw Chapple bull across the line up the middle. Wolfer converted for a 10-5 lead.
Wolfer added a drop goal for a 13-5 advantage that held until halftime.
In the second half, UMW slowly started to come back, but at the same time the Mothers were sometimes hurt by their impatience.
Some promising breaks were undercut by a too-risky offload or simply the lack of desire to set a ruck and go again.
Still, hooker Tom Williams thundered over and converted to make it 13-12 six minutes in, and Williams added a penalty to nudge his team ahead 15-13 a few minutes later.
After that, the UMW backs started to connect. Flyhalf Michael Sacks and No. 8 Matthew Gordon, both big bodies, started to push back the St. Joe’s defenders, and while fullback Bradlee Nichols was garnering attention, it was wing Nathan Neri who finished off the crucial try to extend that lead.
Neri put over a second, with some impressive elusive running, to stretch UMW's lead to 27-13.
Mary Washington began to kick to space to pin St. Joe’s back and put the pressure on the Hawks. It worked. The Mothers almost scored another try but settled for a penalty from Williams, and then Gordon crashed through for the final try.
St. Joe's Pride
St. Joe’s did superbly all season and led at halftime because of a combination of teamwork and bravery. But Mary Washington was too big and wore down the St. Joe’s defense, and the Mothers kept their composure despite being in the unfamiliar position of trailing.
Neri, Gordon, and scrumhalf Harry Masters were all excellent for UMW, but the coaches pointed to locks Phillip Harrison and Lewis Grant and flankers Tucker Chewning and Jack Levine for their defensive play and work rate.
UMW's Dominant Fall
Mary Washington finishes the fall 11-0, outscoring opponents 579-102. The 37 points the Mothers tallied in the fall final was the least number of points they scored all fall, and the winning margin of 24 was also UMW's smallest of the season.