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Cal Poly vs Grand Canyon: Much Meaning In Early Game

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Cal Poly vs Grand Canyon: Much Meaning In Early Game

Patrick Madden in action for Cal Poly. David Barpal photo.

Don’t look now but there’s a major college game in the California Conference in one of the earliest weeks.

Yes, so Saint Mary’s is atop the conference at 2-0 and is favored to be 3-0 by weekend’s end. But who can chase the Gaels? Cal Poly is much improved this year, and Grand Canyon, the #2 team out of the conference last season, is back.

New GCU Head Coach Sean O’Leary is instilling a new approach and a new game plan, and with some player turnover as well as turnover on the sideline, there’s work to do.

“We will be good,” said O’Leary. “But I don’t know when.”

Cameron Dobson returns as a big powerful presence and also a strong leader. Royce Fisher, a former USA U20, also brings experience at higher levels and leadership. O’Leary will build around those two.

“We took care of leadership first and the culture and we’ll build from there,” said the coach. But they aren’t deep, and that might be an issue later in the season.

Meanwhile, Cal Poly struggled in 15s last year but team leaders Kyle Hegarty and Patrick Madden think they’ve fixed some things.

“After our freshman season we graduated almost our entire forward pack except for Kyle,” said Madden. “But last year ten of our starting 15 was sophomores, and so now another year has come by and now Kyle and I and a lot of the starters are juniors with a really good recruiting class and the boys are excited.”

Cal Poly’s maturation plus that influx of talent, added Hegarty, is cause for optimism. 

Players such as Will Nogrady and Alex Domine played at a high level in high school and are ready to hit the ground running as freshmen.

“You can see it at practice; we’re doing a lot more next-level thinking,” said Hegarty. “The conversations you have on game day alone are at a whole different level and that definitely makes our play a lot better.”

So all of that makes this weekend a big game. If either of these teams want to be considered for a Top 20 ranking, winning here will help a lot. They both will have to push Saint Mary’s (no one has been able to yet), but that’s down the road. Job #1 is in Phoenix, Ariz., on Sunday.

Kyle Hegarty And Patrick Madden Of Cal Poly from Goff Rugby Report on Vimeo.