MARIETTA, Ga. – The Mid-South Conference title, a #1 playoff seed, and more than a little pride are all at stake this Saturday, April 13 when the top-ranked Arkansas State Red Wolves take on Life in Marietta. The game will be webcast live at 1 p.m. ET on Life’s website.
ASU got the better of Life in the last encounter on March 9, handing Life their single loss of the year. The 28-22 Red Wolves victory was only the latest installment in a long line of thrilling matches.
Life Head Coach, Dan Payne, likened the ASU/Life rivalry to the Cold War arms race. Each is constantly jockeying for position to edge the other, to prove that they are the supreme force.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the relationship between the two southern powerhouses is that, yes, they are ultracompetitive, but at the same time, they are very supportive of one another. They push each other to be better, to be excellent in all phases of the game, and to constantly raise the standard.
For Payne, the best part of the rivalry is seeing players ply their trade on the field.
“I love just watching these guys compete like crazy,” Payne said, noting also that the battle of the loose forwards and back three will be a spectacle he can’t wait to see on Saturday.
Alex Houser, Arkansas State’s head coach, is keen to see how his team, who like to play an expansive and wide-open game, responds to Life’s direct style of play.
Houser’s philosophical approach to the season wasn’t to set lofty goals for his team, it was to make sure that every weekend his team played to their potential. So far, they’re undefeated, but the heat is cranking up as the postseason is just weeks away.
In what will likely be a tight match, the pressure might weigh a little heavier on the men with the kicking duties. Both have excellent goal kickers, a crucial asset late in the season and in tight playoff games. ASU has two-time All-American senior Fly-half Pat Sullivan and Life has junior Full-back, Joe Cowley, a youngster who Payne said has “the best boot in the country, at any level.”
Both teams are in the postseason regardless of the outcome on Saturday, but this game will determine seeding and who will get home field advantage in the D1A Quarterfinals on April 27. If ASU wins, then it’s very straightforward: ASU is the Mid-South’s #1 seed and Life is #2.
The Running Eagles can still clinch the #1 seed and the conference title, but they have to accomplish a number of things to do so:
- They have to win,
- They have to score four or more tries in the win AND,
- They have to beat Arkansas State by more than 7 points to prevent the Red Wolves from getting a bonus point loss
- Life beats ASU
- Prevents ASU from getting a bonus point loss AND,
- They have the point differential on their side
- The #1 seed from the Mid-South hosts one of the D1A quarterfinals on April 27, while the #2 seed will host the Allied Rugby Conference #1 seed, Texas A&M, on April 20 in a play-in to advance to the quarters.