Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Keeping Up with Ohio Rugby: Division IV

We are well into October and the rugby season is well upon us. The senior level teams are into the meat of their respective season, and some are near the top of their brackets while others are not. Let's take a look at which teams are topping their respective tables and which need a little more work.

Division IV:
Unlike the other divisions, Ohio clubs have a league all to themselves in Division IV. This, the Buckeye League, showcases Findlay SCARS, Toledo Celtics, Columbus Coyotes and Black Swamp Mercenaries.

At this point in the season, Findlay sits comfortably atop the league ladder and are 11 points clear of the second place team. With two matches left in the season it appears as though they won't be caught either. Findlay just seems to be heads and shoulders above the remainder of the teams in the division. In the opening matches of the season, the SCARS put together performances that produced nearly 30 points each for the Northwest Ohio club and only allowed five points to come in.The final two matches are against the Coyotes and Black Swamp Mercenaries, a situation that bodes ell for Findlay since neither team has been able to crack the Findlay defense so far.

The Tri-State League also houses a number of Ohio clubs. The Division IV contingent of the Cleveland Crusaders joins the established Canton Maddogs and Youngstown Steel Valley, among other teams.

The Maddogs are coming off of a historic 2014-2015 season, when the team made club history and made serious inroads into the postseason. The Canton club is on its way to repeating that performance again. So far, the Maddogs are at the top of the league table, but they are anything bur clear of the competition. The 2015 campaign didn't quite start the way Canton would have liked as they suffered a loss to the Crusaders. Though it was a close result, this loss showed the Maddogs that the trot to the top wasn't going to be an easy endeavor. Since that early defeat, everything has come up roses for Canton, winning the three most recent matches and putting up over 30 points in two of them. Canton should have little issue keeping these good fortunes going for most of the upcoming matches. The only two teams that could seemingly threaten their cause would be the Crusaders and Youngstown Steel Valley, who notched 31 points against the Maddogs the first time the two faced off.

The Cleveland Crusaders are in second place in the league and are only two points behind the Maddogs. Though the two teams have the same three-and-one record, the Crusaders' point differential leaves a bit to be desired. The Crusaders are a bit of a dark horse in the league. On one hand, the new club defeated the league champions but suffered a loss to the Greensburg Maulers, who are in third place. Since then, the Crusaders have been the "beneficiaries" of two consecutive forfeits. While the forfeits benefit the Crusaders' record they don't do anything to help getting players experience and developing chemistry. The Crusaders have three weeks until the second meeting with the Maddogs. That result, combined with what happens with NCWV and the Pittsburgh Highlanders, will go a long way towards showing what skill this new team has and what affect the forfeits had on their development.

Youngstown Steel Valley is in fifth place in the league so far. Unfortunately, the club has only been able to get a single win as a result of a forfeit. They have also conceded a forfeit and then been flat out beaten in their other two engagements. There are two good signs for Youngstown, though/ One, when they do play they can be effective. Steel Valley has put up the most points on the Maddogs so far this year. Another offensive performance like that, combined with come tighter defense, and Steel Valley can shock some people in the waning weeks of the season. Second, there are still six matches left. If Steel Valley can make right the ship and head in the right direction, there's no reason why they can't drastically improve their position in the league.

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