It was a busy weekend across the country as teams were putting in their final shifts before the thanksgiving break, and in some instances for the Fall season. Schools were eager to put their best foot forward and garnish their resumes.
Fairfield, Connecticut hosted 16 teams in the Liberty Challenge Cup Series for the second year in a row this year. The Liberty Conference crowned its first champion, as American International College toppled University of Massachusetts 15-10 in a tight match. AIC entered as the third seed while UMass entered as the one seed and heavy favorites after beating Binghamton by a wide margin the week prior. With points set to be hard to come by in this match, AIC elected to take a penalty kick and get on the board early. Winger Filippo Banzato followed the penalty kick up with a try in the 27th minute of the game, after dashing up the sideline and beating several defenders. Going in to half time UMASS held a small 10-8 lead over AIC. Seven minutes after play resumed, inside center Luis Sitama was red carded and left AIC down a player for the remainder of the match. Despite being down a man AIC showed great resilience holding UMass scoreless in the second half. Lock Tom Clark would score the match winning try with 12 minutes left in the game, driving past the UMASS line to finish off the upset for AIC. In their first year at the D1A level, AIC went on to claim the first championship in Liberty Conference history.
While #12 Iona declined to participate in the Liberty playoffs this year, they still travelled to Fairfield, Connecticut to take on #18 St. Bonaventure from Rugby East. St. Bonaventure got off to a hot start, and were leading 31-15 heading in to halftime. Iona would show a lot of heart though as they proceeded to storm back in the second half, scoring 21 points in an 11 minute span to put them up 36-31 over the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure would go on to score their first try of the second half minutes later to put them back ahead, but their lead was short lived as Iona would score with only four minutes left in the game to put them ahead 43-38. In the dying minutes of game, St. Bonaventure’s tight head prop Kyle Ciquera bashed his way over the try line to score his third try of the game and draw his side even with the Gaels. Kicker Joshua Smith successfully converted his kick, sealing the last minute upset for the Bonnies 45-43.
In the other Liberty playoff game, Syracuse played Binghamton in the 3rd place match for the Liberty Conference. While the two sides were close at the half, with Binghamton only down four points, Syracuse were able to distance themselves in the second half and go on to win 31-17. Man of the match Jean Eric van der Elst scored two tries in the win. In the Liberty Challenge Cups Northeastern beat Fordham 41-26, hosts Fairfield blew out Colgate 76-7, UConn shutout Albany 34-0, Tufts defeated Stony Brook 19-12, and Rhode Island beat Cortland 29-17.
Rocky Mountain also crowned its champion this weekend, as #6 BYU demolished Colorado State 96-6. While Colorado State had its ups and downs this season, they had been in good form prior to the final and were expected to put up a good fight against BYU. BYU had other plans though as they limited them to just two penalty kicks, while they themselves had a field day scoring early and often throughout the game. BYU ends their league season undefeated and with a championship and a spot in the D1A playoffs, presenting a great base for them to build off for the spring season.
#3 Lindenwood travelled to take on #17 Davenport in Mid-South play. Lindenwood won their second game of the season 33-3, whilst holding Davenport to a single penalty kick. Winger Christian Rodriguez got the Lions off to a hot start as he scored two tries within the first minutes of the game. Lindenwood have started the year in good form and look poised to make another deep run this year.
#7 Navy shutout Wheeling Jesuit in spectacular fashion this week. Navy scored 12 tries in the game, resulting in an 80-0 win. Loose forwards Michael Galvan. Philip Dalke, and Thomas Craig scored six tries combined, helping power Navy towards their seventh win of the season.
In Red River action Texas Tech lost at home to North Texas 36-17, while LSU travelled to take on Texas, pulling out a convincing road win 52-5 over the Longhorns.