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CRC Qualifier Semis Set

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CRC Qualifier Semis Set

Khabir blasts off again. David Barpal photo.

The quarterfinals for the Men's College 7s bracket at the Las Vegas Invitational, and we know the four teams who will compete in the semis Saturday, looking for a chance to play in the main stadium later that day.

There was only one close game. AIC defeated Delaware 39-0 in their quarterfinal. Utah shut out Harvard 28-0. Notre Dame College won 43-24 over Air Force in a game that was 43-7 at one point. And ... James Madison eked out a win over Lindenwood-Belleville in a game that went back and forth. The possible game-winning try for L-B was called back for a forward pass, and JMU held on 22-19.

AIC dominated proceedings on Thursday, outscoring opponents 119-5, and continued the dominance Friday. Yesterday Jihad Khabir (pictured above) scored five tries while freshman Justin Owens had a nice day, scoring three, as did senior Gavan D'Amore-Morrison. Freshman Lui Sitama was also a dangerous attacker, as opponents had no answer for AIC"s speed and teamwork.

"What's really important about this is we have a really deep squad. It's not just the starters - we have backups who are capable of maintaining the same level of intensity," said D'Amore-Morrison. "The supporting players have come in and kept pounding. In 7s, games can start out fast and die out and you can give the opposing team a chance to mount a comeback. But we haven't done that."

That is why, in part, AIC has shut out three of the team's four opponents. The defense has been solid, but they have also dominated possession.

"We have worked on keeping possession," said D'Amore-Morrison. "We've been good in our onside kick recovery and all of us, my, [Adrian] Ray, Corey Momsen, Jacob Ponder, and myself, we've all been really aggressive in winning those restarts and getting it out to the danger guys."James Madison (pictured below, David Barpal photo) found a worrying lesson in Lindenwood-Belleville, a team that punishes mistakes with ferocity. A wayward pass, leaving a player isolated, and not being vigilant when the ball rolled out of the ruck all resulted in tries for the Lynx.

"When we kept the ball we played some pretty good rugby," said JMU Coach Mark Lambourne. "But we made mistakes. When we cut out the mistakes we've got good width and some good athletes to take advantage of that."

Matt Narzikul scored two tries for JMU, while Federico Meersohn and Michael Barry both touched down once. Meersohn kicked one conversion for the 22-19 win..

James Madison David Barpal photo


Notre Dame College (pictured below, David Barpal photo), led by ran out to a 19-5 halftime lead. 

"The first try we scored was a textbook 7s try," said NDC Head Coach Jason Fox. "We went sideline to sideline to sideline before we opened up the space. It was great."

Notre Dame College's pace and support running just outstripped Air Force. Simply put, the Falcons were too fast for the Falcons. 

But Fox said it was also more than that. Luke Markovich, a former Miami (Ohio) All American who played for Fox at St. Edward HS and now plays for 1823 in Ohio, has joined the program as the 7s coach, and his contribution has been massive. The players are playing less individually and more as a unit, and it matters.

"Luke has reinforced what I've been trying to tell the guys, and the kids have bought into a structure on offense and smarter organization on defense. They get it now, that it's not just about athleticism, but a team approach."


Notre Dame College - David Barpal photo


Utah (David Barpal photo below right) took care of a Harvard team that had enjoyed a 3-0 day on Thursday. The Utes struggled at times on Thursday, especially in a 15-7 win over Northeastern when they gave up an early try and couldn't quite shake their opponents. Against Harvard, the Crimson looked to keep the ball away from Utah, and it looked like a smart strategy.

"They played a very good side-to-side game and kept us in check," said Utah Program Director Mark Drown. "We needed to be very patient. But our defense was good. They couldn't penetary us. And once we got the turnovers and work with some possession, we pulled away."

Gabe Ruflin, Chad Gough, Casey Raymond, and Jacob Morrison scored tries for the Utes, and Gough converted all four to make it a 28-0 win over Harvard.

Utah has done superbly to make the semis given that they only took a few regular first-siders from their 15s team. With the Utes 15s team in the middle of their season, and with BYU, Cal, St. Mary's, UCLA, and West Point on the docket in the coming weeks, they couldn't afford to break up the team at present. So this much younger group has done well to make the top four. Now Utah looks ahead to AIC. 

"AIC is really, really good," said Drown. "They have so many weapons." 

So AIC will face Utah in the semis on Saturday morning at 8am, and NDC will face JMU 20 minutes later.

NDC beat JMU in Pool Play 33-17, Lambourne said the Falcons looked very, very impressive. Their speed, especially, is difficult to match. But Fox of NDC has warned his players - "just because we beat them doesn't mean they will roll over the second time we play them."

Utah lineout - David Barpal photo