“It was a tough one,” said Life forwards captain Glen Maricelli. “Lindenwood is a very physical team.”
Opening blows exchanged by the two robust teams equated to penalty goals for each – Life’s Blane Mcllroy at the 10th minute and Lindenwood’s Mikey Bateman five minutes later. Midway through the first half, Life scored again, this time for five points after senior Jake McFadden put Mitch Wilson away for the try. However, the Lions again answered the score when flanker Tom O’Connor crossed the line to tie the match 8-8 at halftime.
Wing Zander Van Schalkwyk got the second-half scoring underway with a try. Just minutes after converting the try, Mcllroy added a penalty to put Life in the lead, 18-8. Lindenwood refused to rest quietly, and a converted try from winger Alex Augspurg brought the home team to within three points of the No. 1-ranked team in D1A.
In front by just three with 15 minutes remaining in the match, Life repeatedly sent the ball deep, forcing the Lions to play out of their own end. The precision kicks, especially from freshman reserve Conner Mooneyham, worked quite well and the Running Eagles held strong to their 18-15 lead.
The Life victory makes for a 3-0 record in Mid-South play and earned the team its second consecutive conference title, but the most recent nail-biter marks the first road win for the team, and the first-ever test away from campus for a number of freshmen Tui Osborne and his staff are relying on.
“It was the first true road game for a lot of our younger guys, and I’m really proud of the way they stepped up,” said Maricelli.
A 32-0 blowout of Arkansas State proved that Life still has the capability of beating good teams by a large margin, but its three Mid-South victories have now been by a combined 10 points. While the competitive nature of the conference matches might grey the hair of the Running Eagles coaching staff, the team is confident they are steadily getting better as the season progresses.
“All we can ask is that we keep improving and giving our best, and I feel like we continue to do that,” Maricelli approved.
Life concludes its conference schedule this Saturday when it pays Davenport a visit. The Panthers are winless in the Mid-South but battled the Running Eagles to a 25-25 tie after 80 minutes, only to have Mcllroy win the match for Life with a penalty on the game’s final play.