Four Mid-South ranked teams back in action this weekend

D1A Rugby: Four Mid-South ranked teams back in action this weekend
Photo Credit: Nick Storm

Mid-South teams are back at it this weekend with two conference games on tap this Saturday. No. 6 Lindenwood aims to change their fortunes against No. 1 Life, while No. 18 Clemson hosts No. 7 Arkansas State. 

#6 Lindenwood vs #1 Life
Lindenwood came up short against Life just over a month ago, keeping the game close at times but never enough to grab the lead. Since that matchup the Lions have not lost a game, which includes the Cup Championship at the Las Vegas Invitational CRC Qualifier.

Highlighting that Sin City trip was senior Michael Baska who played a full game Arkansas State hours after the three-day, five game tournament. The full back’s try sparked the late comeback attempt in the Running Eagles matchup, and could be a key body on the pitch come Saturday.

Lindenwood has never defeated Life however. While momentum is certainly on Lindenwood’s side coming in to the match, so too is the newly No. 1 ranked Running Eagles.

Head coach Josh Macy quickly mentioned that avoiding history from repeating itself starts with playing error-free rugby. It also means matching the Running Eagles blow for blow.

“The Running Eagles are great at pouncing on mistakes, and making sure you don’t capitalize on theirs. If we can flip that, we’ll be on the right side of the score line earlier in the game,” Macy said.

“A big part of rewriting a story with a good team like the Running Eagles is first puncturing the aura. They’ve done a great job of creating that image, but at the end of the day they’re 15 guys wearing polyester shirts.”

Life meanwhile made quick work of Clemson last week in their first conference road game en route to reclaiming No. 1 status.

“It’s a tough conference and a deep D1A with teams challenging and beating each other,” Life head coach Scott Lawrence commented. “We were lucky to be at home early.”  

Continuing their road game dominance could be led by the likes of Zander Van Schalkwyk and Harley Wheeler, who have combined for nine tries in the last three games. Van Schalkwyk, in particular, helped start the Running Eagles’ early lead against Lindenwood alongside Cody Melphy’s try, conversion and penalty kick.

Not always included in the score sheet is Alex MacDonald though. A transfer from Citadel, Lawrence notes the senior has produced consistent performances and example-based leadership since coming on board.

#18 Clemson vs. #8 Arkansas State
Following the mutual cancellation of their first matchup due to weather concerns, the Tigers and Red Wolves hope to be in Mother Nature’s good graces this Saturday.

The loss last week to the Running Eagles was the first conference loss for Clemson since entering the Mid-South. Arkansas State, meanwhile, is fresh off a 33-19 win against Davenport. With the season midpoint now in the rear view mirror, both teams are eyeing a critical conference win.

“The Clemson game is a vital game for the teams moral, confidence, and direction as we approach the playoff season,” said Arkansas State head coach Shaun Potgieter. “The team knows the expectations, it’s up to them to execute on the pitch. The game plan has not changed. We are striving to get better as a team every week opposed to worrying about what the opposition does. If we execute our plan, we’ll be just fine.”

The Red Wolves used an impressive second half surge to rally against the Panthers last week. Calvin Gentry, Kudakwashe Makuvire and Preston Weigel all touched down in that span, while Arkansas State’s defense played nearly flawless in the final 40 minutes.

Clemson’s biggest challenge versus Life was matching physicality in what head coach Steve Lynch called the most disciplined team in the nation. Their goal has been to play a full 80 minutes this season, and hope to execute that once again at home this week.

Both teams are in the midst of spring break on campus this week, making preparations less than ideal. Regardless, game plans are expected to remain the same for both sides as if it was the March 11 setting.