Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mid Season Summaries: Men's Senior

The temperature is starting to drop, the leaves are starting to change and the smell of pumpkin spice is thick in the air. This means that fall is coming and - more importantly - rugby season is in full swing. From the college kids up to the senior divisions, the majority of teams are in the meat their seasons.

Looking through the various conferences and divisions, the Ohio representatives are spread throughout the standings. In most cases, there are representatives of the state in at least one of the top three spots. Other teams are a little farther from those prestigious positions.

This edition of Mid Season Summaries will look at the senior men's clubs throughout the Midwest from Division I on through to Division IV and examine where teams are as well as the outlook for the remainder of the club's season.

*All stats used to support this write-up have been taken from the USA Rugby Web site.

Men's Division I

Probably the most notable teams in the state are the Division I sides for Columbus and the Cincinnati Wolfhounds. Both teams have accumulated four wins and only yielded a pair of losses. Columbus holds a slim lead over Cincinnati in the league table - 22 to 21 - despite a recent loss to the Wolfhounds. Between the two teams, they have collected a few impressive scalps. Both have toppled the Milwaukee Barbarians as well as Metropolis. Columbus has also captured wins against the Chicago Lions and Kansas City Blues, while Palmer has also fallen to the Wolfhounds.

These results are most interesting for two reasons. First, the results to this point are unprecedented successes for both clubs. Up to this point, the level of competition - combined with an absurd amount of travel - have made accumulating wins difficult in the past; so the fact that these two clubs have gone on to knock off most of their competition came out of nowhere. Second, the length of the season will play a large role in whether or not these two tams can sustain this success. While most teams have four weeks remaining in their seasons, these two clubs have six left until the winter intermission; and after that there are still four more weeks of competition. A lot can happen in that span of time. Players can come and go, depending upon what other rugby-related duties they have. Injuries can occur and heal. Suffice to say, the landscape of the entire league could change - and that could be in favor of the boys from the Buckeye State or in the complete opposite direction.

Men's Division II

In Division II the sole representatives of the state are the Cleveland Crusaders. After a meteoric rise following the team's inception last year the Crusaders have had some difficulties repeating that success. While the team is spotless in the loss column so far, the margins of victory are closer and the team drew even with the Tradesmen early in the season. With all that being said, the Crusaders still sit in second place on the league table, just behind the Tradesmen. If Cleveland wins out, the team could leapfrog Detroit and become the no. one seed coming out of the region going into playoffs.

Division III

This division is lousy with Ohio clubs.Split between three conferences, there are nine teams from the Buckeye state - six alone are in the South Conference. Throughout the divisions and conferences, teams are sprinkled throughout the tables, from top to bottom.

Michigan Conference:
Arguably, the most successful Ohio team in this division so far is the Toledo Celtics. Toledo has taken five of its five matches so far this season to take first place in the Michigan Conference with 23 league points. More impressive than this perfect record is the fact that Toledo is averaging about 50 points per match. This is another long season, so longevity will be key if Toledo hopes to maintain its choke hold on the division. The upsides is there are only three weeks remaining until the fall intermission. Then there are only three weeks remaining in the season. Closing out the fall in solid fashion could set the stage for a quick close-out in the spring.

East Conference:
The Cleveland Crusaders, Cleveland Rovers and Akron all populate the East Conference of this division. The Crusaders and Rovers are in second and third place, respectively, while Akron sits in fifth place.

The Crusaders and Rovers are both chasing the Pittsburgh Highlanders, who sit in first place with 20 points. Both Cleveland sides have 15 league points, so wins and bonus points are bonus points are going to be the keys to success. For the Rovers, getting bonus points could, not only, boost them past the Crusaders but allow them to launch themselves into first place. The Rovers and Crusaders play the Highlanders on alternating weekends and then face one another for the second time in the season. These weeks could, conceivably, be the most important ones in the season for these two teams.

On paper, Akron seems to be a very middle-of-the-road team this season. Akron has split its four matches, getting wins over the Rovers and Pittsburgh before dropping two straight. The interesting thing about Akron's situation is that the team's first win was over the Rovers. This seems to indicate that the team can operate at a level that can put them nose-to-nose with the top teams in the conference. One or two wins could enable Akron to make some moves on the league table. Akron has the South Pittsburgh Hooligans, the team directly ahead of them in the standings; and after that the Greensburg Maulers, the team directly behind them. Two positive results there could see a shake-up happen in the standings.

South:
Ohio, essentially, owns the South Conference. Aside from Lexington and Louisville, Ohio teams make up the entire table.

The teams to watch out for seem to be the Cincinnati Kelts and Columbus Castaways. Though both are undefeated, the Kelts are in first place and the Castaways are in second. Cincinnati has played five matches and accumulated 25 league points, while Columbus has played four and only gotten 19 points. What also makes these teams so interesting is that both seem to be able to execute offensive strikes to great effect. Cincinnati is averaging almost 30 points a match; and Columbus almost broke the 90-point mark against Lexington. When Columbus hosts Cincinnati, it should produce a good amount of fireworks.

The Dayton Flying Pigs are the new kids on the Division III block and have had a rough go of things to this point in the season. The Pigs have taken a single win in four attempts and have only amassed seven league points. Aside from its one win, Dayton can take heart in knowing that it came within 12 points of defeating the Castaways; so if Dayton can tighten up the loose bolts and step up production, there's no reason it can't make a decent run at one of the top three spots.

The Division III side from the Cincinnati Wolfhounds and Queen City are fighting to avoid the bottom rather than trying to get to the top. Not only are the two teams one point away from one another on the league table, but they are, at most, four points adrift from the fourth spot on the table. The Wolfhounds definitely seem to have the upper hand in this race from the bottom. With four league points and a win to its credit, the Wolfhounds are on the brink of an upward move. Queen City is only one point shy of the Wolfhounds, so some positive results could push them past a team or two but getting the first win of the season would be a tall order for Queen City.

Division IV

Division IV is also thick with Ohio teams. Between two conferences, there are seven clubs vying for points.

Michigan Conference:
The Ohio representatives in the Northwest corner of the state are at drastically different slots of the table. Findlay Scars have taken every win except one to tie for first place with 20 league points. The Toledo Celtics' DIV side has yet to notch a victory and is in last place.

Findlay, despite its loss, looks to be playing a very effective brand of rugby. In all its wins, the team is averaging almost 40 points per match. The only thing keeping Findlay from sitting at the top by itself is that one loss. Findlay will be able to distance itself from the remainder from the pack when they travel to first-place team. After that, there are just two more weeks left in the season. Worst case, Findlay hits a snag or two and remains a solid second.

Buckeye Conference:
The Canton Maddogs have a distinct lead over the rest of the Buckeye Conference. The Dogs have gone four-for-four so far in league play and amassed 20 league points in the process. What's most impressive is that Canton has hit the century mark twice so far this season, once against the Columbus Coyotes and once against the Dayton Flying Pigs' DIV side.

Dayton and Columbus are the two second sides in this conference, and they sit at second and third place, respectively. Both are well and truly behind Canton but are neck-and-neck with one another.

Dayton has the slight advantage with ten league points. Dayton has played one more match than Columbus but has split its four matches. Every result Dayton has been a part of so far has been a decisive one. Whether it was its 88-7 win over Youngstown Steel Valley or its 102-10 loss to Canton, there haven't been any iffy results. Dayton has four more opportunities to grab wins and points. Clinical execution could allow the Pigs to set up in a more comfortable second place. Columbus DIV only needs two league points to overcome  Dayton. In its three matches so far, Columbus has amassed scores of more than 60 points in the majority of its wins. If Columbus can close out the season with strong performances, the team could find some better real estate on the league table. What bodes well for Columbus is that its last three matches are against Youngstown, who they play twice, and the Coyotes. Both of these teams are having a tough go of things this year, so strong performances in those final encounters could be what it takes to make big moves.

Youngstown Steel Valley and the Columbus Coyotes are at the bottom of the league table. Steel Valley's record is 1-2, while the Coyotes have been the whipping boy of the league and have yet to record a victory to date. Steel Valley will need to turn things around in a big way if the team hopes to notch wins against a team other than the Coyotes. Columbus may need some wholesale changes if they intend to be competitive.

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