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The Lions showed up at Rockford 7s last weekend with two solid squads and came away with 1st and 7th finishes. Next up is Firehouse 7s, just 30 minutes from the Lion's den at the beautiful Chicago Blaze facility in Lemont, IL.
The Lions will be the favorite.
This fall, Alex Dorrier and Jack Casey linked up in the centers and developed chemistry in the midfield that boosted the Lions to the Club 15s national semifinal.
A month removed from 15s nationals and the Lions have again reloaded with another batch of young studs.
They brought in Oscar Dennis from the Kenyan national team who’s got several appearances on the HSBC 7s World Series. Dennis put up a few tries last weekend at Rockford 7s.
The Lions snagged a Lindenwood gem in Jack Desmond who is fresh off a College 7s national championship and CRC title.
Efe Ovie took the fall off as he worked on his body in preparation for the Old Glory & RugbyATL combines, but he’s all in for 7s. Ovie was untouchable on the wing in his time at Bethel College and he’ll add the pace on the edge that the Lions lost when Mikesell left for France. Every serious contender needs a true gas-man and the Lions got theirs.
The underrated haul is USA Falcons workhorse, Alex Cleary. Last summer, Cleary was down in Buenos Aires for the Youth Olympics where he was selected out of all the athletes to carry the colors of our nation as the flag-bearer. This summer the Chuckanut Bay prospect trades the Red, White, and Blue for the Lions Black to round out a scary young squad.
The Lions are set to take Firehouse 7s and beyond, but they’ll have to get through Metropolis and Cleveland Academy.
Cleveland Academy went to Club 7s nationals last summer, but they couldn’t escape the pool of death.
They’ve got a bonafide burner in Corey Graham back. Graham made the Club 7s Nationals Dream Team last summer and this fall he joined up with the Cleveland Crusaders on their run to the Club 15s nationals. Graham’s speed on the edge will make the pitch feel much wider for other teams at Firehouse 7s.
Cleveland Academy is coached by Luke Markovich from Notre Dame College. Markovich put NDC on the map outperforming the D1AA field in sevens for years. He’s got a D1AA National Championship on his resume and produced top 7s prospects like Corey Graham and recent USA 7s flyer, Marcus Tupuola.
Metropolis finished second in their pool at Club 7s Nationals last season. Then they went 8-0 this fifteens season, before forfeiting their chance at the Midwest Championship. They lost players to the MLR, but not all of them.
They’ve got Trace Bolstad, a surefire flyhalf with several collegiate national championships under his belt.
Metropolis is rumored to have recruited USA 7s prop Garret Bender as a coach for this season. The Olympian has made his way through the coaching ranks from rookie rugby to collegiate sevens to Tiger Rugby and now Metropolis.
Metropolis is a serious contender with Bolstad and Bender.
This year it’s the other Chicago squad that will be favored to take the Firehouse cup. It’s not the Lions, it’s North Shore. They’ll let you know they are not the same.
North Shore won Rockford 7s with a final victory over the Lions. This weekend they’ll have a shorter drive.
After joining the WPL in 2017, North Shore didn’t put 7s as a priority for their program. The first step was to bring in the right coach, and former WNT coach John Coumbe-Lilley was just the man for the job.
Key players from North Shore’s WPL fifteens squad are back out for a run at sevens. Amy Martello and Lauren Trout are massive contributors for the club as they prop in 7s and coach the Collegiate All-Stars
The Lions and Metropolis went to New York for nationals last summer, but if North Shore can take Firehouse this weekend they can start buying tickets to Kansas City.
They fell short to North Shore last weekend, but the Lions have time to right the ship. They’ve got two very competitive sides. That’s a massive advantage in sevens because the two sides will be able to pressure each other at each practice.
Having two sides mean the Lions will have depth advantage too. As the season goes on players are destined to go down to injury and the Lions can last.
Chip O’Dell and Kelly Hirt lead the top side, but new faces around the team means we could see different lineups qualifier to qualifier.
The Lions know North Shore and North Shore know the Lions. This will be a chess match from week to week and come August both teams could be headed to nationals.