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Gators Grapple, St. Thomas Cruises in Florida D1AA League

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Gators Grapple, St. Thomas Cruises in Florida D1AA League

Florida is 3rd in the conference, but still 4-0. Connor Brady photo.

St. Thomas and Florida are the only undefeated teams left in the Florida D1AA after both won over the weekend.

The manner of their victories were very different. St. Thomas, one of the newest school-supported programs on the scene, has a ton of talent and is putting it together nicely. The result has been some big scorelines, including a 72-0 shutout last week against Florida International and a shutout to the tune of 84-0 this past weekend.

Part of that is a reflection of the league, which has often been very competitive top-to-bottom, but this year sees a few teams rebuilding while others are in a strong position. So for a league that has usually had its share of close-loss bonus points, this season, after 17 results, we've seen nine shutouts (some of which were forfeits) and six wins by 39 points or more.

Against FIU St. Thomas got three tries each tries from wing Teonaishe Mapani and No. 8 Owen Phillips as they improved to 5-0.

Moving to 4-0 was Florida, which edged their rivals Florida State 20-11. This was a bit of a battle and the game was in the balance into the final 20 minutes. In a game that started somewhat sloppily due to rain and lightning relays, FSU led 11-10 midway through the second half thanks to a try from Ilan Egosi and two penalty goals from Cole Ryan. Florida had kept pace with an early Felix Olivero try, which he converted, and a penalty from Olivero just before halftime.

But right at 60 minutes center Martin Gentile put Florida ahead with a try. Olivero converted, and then sealed the win with a penalty late in the game to ensure a little mistake wouldn't result in a game-winner for FSU.

The Seminoles drop to 4-1, but remain ahead of Florida in the standings because of bonus points.

"It was our best performance this season," said Florida Head Coach Ken Simmons. "Scrums worked well for us.I was very pleased with our defensive line and kick chase.  Andre Mortensen, Max Dunne, and Felix Olivero had some huge tackles, while Barit Dhungana had some key jackals.  Our goalline defense while playing a man short was crucial to maintaining the lead and building the confidence to finish."

So what's next? Well St. Thomas was bumped up to the D1AA conference this year and the schedule kind of eased them into the competition. What that means is that their toughest games are ahead of them. Late March is when the rubber meets the road as St. Thomas plays Florida State on March 23 and Florida on March 30. For the Gators, the final weekend, April 6, is a tough one, too, as the always ornery Central Florida hosts them, probably with an eye toward a favorable playoff seeding.

Unofficial standings

St. Thomas 5 0 0 310 29 281 5 0 25
Florida State 4 1 0 184 59 125 4 0 20
Florida 4 0 0 116 66 50 3 0 19
South Florida 2 2 0 77 94 -17 2 1 11
Central Florida 2 2 0 84 57 27 2 1 11
Eckerd 2 2 0 69 80 -11 1 0 9
North Florida 1 4 0 28 180 -152 1 0 5
FAU 0 4 0 37 179 -142 0 1 1
FIU 0 5 0 0 151 -151 0 -3 -3