BOULDER, Colo. – Life’s preseason schedule wrapped over the weekend with a two-match sweep over military academies Air Force and Navy in Charlotte, N.C. The Feb. 13 game against the Zoomies ended in a 74-0 shutout in favor of the Running Eagles, but the No. 2-ranked squad was tested more than the score would indicate. The following day was a different story, with Navy hanging tight with Life before falling, 28-19.
Playing without back-line standouts Duncan Van Schalkwyk and Mitchell Wilson, who were with the Men’s Junior All-Americans who defeated Canada, fellow sophomore sensation Conner Mooneyham stepped up and net himself three tries against the Zoomies.
Upperclassmen Harley Davidson and Zander Van Schalkwyk also found the try zone, as did first-year Running Eagle Cody Melphy – who has been in fine form during Life’s nonconference stretch.
Air Force did well to rebound from its defeat on Saturday to dispatch Clemson, 37-13, on Sunday.
“I think we got lucky it was the Air Force Academy’s first game – give them some time to get outdoors and training,” said Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence. “Although our precision wasn’t what it needed to be, we did well to convert the two-versus-one scenarios you attempt to create in an attacking system.”
Early tries from Alex Maughan and Maciu Koroi helped build a 15-0 lead in Sunday’s fixture, but the rest of the match would be a back-and-forth struggle against the Midshipmen. A red card was shown to Life just twenty minutes into the day two fixture, sparking a Navy attack that is more than capable of success playing 15 versus 15.
Navy outscored the Running Eagles 12-5 down the stretch of the opening frame to narrow Life’s lead to just six points at intermission.
“Being a young team, we put ourselves under the pressure,” said senior flanker Zach Warren. “Playing a man down for most of the game, and the number of penalties, killed our momentum. This made it hard to run our system efficiently.”
Melphy got his team back on the front foot with a try to open the second half, but the Midshipmen answered with a try of their own to bring the score to 25-19. Life added a penalty to close the match, and returned to Marietta, Ga., with two victories.
The successful series against the military service academies gives Life four noteworthy wins in three weeks after previously taking down South Carolina and Clemson. There is no doubt the Mid-South season will be more strenuous, which starts Feb. 27 when the Running Eagles host No. 3 Lindenwood, but the reigning conference champions feel their mindset is where it needs to be prior to home-and-away series against Davenport and Lindenwood.
“Being a part of this team is all about heart,” Warren said. “I believe that this weekend shows that. The men of our program fought through adversity. We have a desire to win, and we have a great opportunity in front of us this year.”
In an attempt to avoid bitter temperatures and snowy conditions in Michigan and Missouri, Life will host its first two conference matches before completing the second leg of conference play on the road.