Another competition heats up in D1A’s East Conference as Davenport travels to Penn State to battle the top ranking Nittany Lions. As it stands, the two teams have yet to see the number of games that their counterparts have enjoyed outside the East. “It is unfortunate but we are finally towards the end of October and just now getting to our third match,” says Penn State Coach Don Farrell.
Despite a lack of playing time, Penn State has taken part in several sensational matches, providing opportunities to test themselves against heavy hitters such as Kutztown University and Wheeling Jesuit University. Despite a loss against Kutztown, the Penn State Nittany Lions are sitting at a comfortable 5th rank in the league. Meanwhile the Davenport Panthers are chomping on their heels at 6th. “The biggest thing we want to bring into the match is aggression,” says Coach Farrell.
Penn State’s backline is promised to be ready and rearing to go following a weekend where the pack had all the fun in a rainy match against Wheeling Jesuit. Their rest comes at great timing to capitalize on Panthers’ star flyhalf Jean Paul Eloff’s absence this week (Eloff is traveling with Tiger Rugby in Shanghai). The Nittany Lions over the limited season have incorporated some underclassmen into the lineup creating a deep bench. Young Penn State players to watch for include Joe Kelly, Chris Baker and Malcolm May. All have stepped up to the plate and have seen extended game time. Of the young Nittany Lions, Coach Farrell says, “they are meshing well with the current players and the depth that that creates is only going to help us moving forward.” The two high-ranking teams match up quite well across the field.
In Eloff’s absence, Panthers will be looking to sophomore flyhalf Brady Gent who has had a strong performance so far this season. With Gent commandeering the ten spot, Panthers will likely see sophomore brothers Alek and Roman Mares flanking in tandem. “[The Mares brothers] seem to always work together and get things done, they will also have a good outing this weekend,” says Davenport Coach Kruger Van Biljon.
Davenport has started to jell as a unit, says Coach Van Biljon. Last weekend the Panthers took the initiative to set up two out of league matches battling both Notre Dame (64-0 win) and the University of Western Ontario (36-7 win). A winning weekend has certainly left the Panthers hungry to continue the streak and climb up the D1A national rankings.
Both teams exhibit discipline as well as strong communication between their pack and back line. With playoff implications on the horizon, there will be no holding back from these teams as they stand-off in the East.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 1:00pm on Penn State’s campus in University Park, PA.