All Up in The Air At West Coast 7s
All Up in The Air At West Coast 7s
College sevens hasn't become massive in the fall, but it has its moments, and this weekend is one of them.
The West Coast 7s, PAC 7s, Boise State 7s, and recently-completed Red River 7s are all part of the fall calendar, and this weekend the West Coast 7s reigns.
Cal has to be considered the favorite coming in, but it's a shaky status for the Bears after a less-than-stellar West Coast warmup in San Luis Obispo. There Cal's 1st team lost twice, including in the final against UCLA.
Placed in Pool B with Trinity Western (a new varsity program from British Columbia), University of San Diego, and San Jose State, the Bears should roll out of their pool without too much trouble. But the knockout rounds are another story.
Injuries have hit Cal, also, but it wasn't just that. Head Coach Jack Clark said after the SLO tournament that he wasn't overly impressed with his more experienced team, and it was telling that it was the underclassmen Bears who made the final in that event. Freshman Cal Liebowitz scored three tries in that game. We'll see if the underclassmen are the players who carry the load.
UCLA could be the team to take the crown. Having won the SLO tournament and rebounded from several changes, the Bruins still have plenty of experience and intelligence. Still, Patrick Regan leads from the front and Eric Naposki is still scoring tries out wide, so they've got that going for them.
The Bruins are in a tough Pool A with UC Davis (won the Plate in 2018), Santa Clara, and Sacramento State. All of these teams can play, and all hit hard, and getting through this pool unscathed with me a minor victory in itself.
Cal Poly, remember, beat Cal in pool play in San Luis Obispo, and healthy and with an influx of talented freshmen, the Mustangs are, rightfully, thinking big. But they have to keep focused on the idea of using their entire squad, rather than depending on one or two players to handle the load. Head Coach Jame Tesoriero addressed that issue earlier in the season two ways: one, he spoke to his more experienced leaderships and asked them to use their teammate more even if it risked and early loss—long term it would help everyone. And he also started to stagger when he had his most dependable firepower on the field, forcing other players to step in and support.
Pool C also features USC, Utah, and CCAC. All three of these teams are wild cards. You don't know what you're going to get. Utah is not the national power it was ten years ago, but could be very good very quickly. USC and CCAC were surprising last year and while they don't necessarily have depth, they do have the talent to punish mistakes.
In all the news that Cal Poly and UCLA beat Cal in SLO, it's easy to overlook that Arizona almost beat Cal last year in the West Coast 7s semifinals. Arizona is fairly young—they take three freshmen to Treasure Island this weekend—but the Wildcats have a really nice mixture of skill, pace, and power. Ben Scoular captains the team. Matt Rogers could have been the captain, but he graduates this December, and so, in the interests of continuity, told the coaches that if Scular was to captain the side in the spring, he should do so all season.
This has been a smart move for everyone, as the players look to Scoular, but Rogers is also an experienced leader who can keep the team focused. Rogers's younger brother, Jon, is a silky runner who can make tacklers miss, while players such as Rob Figley, Jack McCrossin, and Zach Heisterkamp are just very difficult to bring down.
Those are all relatively well-known names, but less well-known is Joe Sargeant. He played well for Arizona last fall but was felled by injury which kept him out all spring. he's back and looking very good. This is a powerful, and fast, team.
Arizona will have to get by San Diego State, Cal Maritime, and Stanford in Pool D, and will do so. It's hard to see those teams upending the Wildcats.
Likely, the, on Day Two we will see Cal, UCLA, Cal Poly, and Arizona get through the quarterfinals and battle it out. After that? Well this year more than most, it's anyone's guess.
West Coast 7s Day One Schedule: