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JMU Turns it Around to Win DII Men College 7s

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JMU Turns it Around to Win DII Men College 7s

Photo Ted Kunkel.

At various points throughout the Men’s DII 7s Championships in Denver, it seemed as is several different teams were poised to take it all. 

Defending champions Principia started their tournament with a big victory, but it turned out the competition this year would be too physical, too tough for the Thunder Chickens. Then it seemed Wisconsin-Whitewater was a dominant force, and while they didn’t fade, other names - Minnesota-Duluth, UNC-Wilmington, St. Louis, would emerged. 

Not a team you would have thought was championship material was James Madison. They lost in an error-strewn opener against Notre Dame College. They barely beat Southern Illinois. That didn’t seem national-beaters. But later in a long Saturday, after repeated delays for lightning, JMU downed then 2-0 team UNC-Wilmington 31-12. 

That game dumped Wilmington from 1st in Pool C to 3rd, and nudged JMU to 2nd, just behind NDC.

But something happened in that game, as James Madison realized they could play 7s,and maybe, in fact, if they played true 7s, they might get by the teams that focus more on contact in the middle of the field.

So it was that they played Coast Guard in the quarterfinals, a team that unleashed an impressive pressure defense on their opponents, but a team that couldn’t contain JMU - finally score, 33-0, with Michael Barry scoring two tries and Timothy Katz, Evan Larson, and Chris Kunkel also touching down.

Then it was the semifinal against St. Louis, and after Barry opened the scoring, St. Louis took a 7-5 lead, and you wondered if JMU might fade now that things were getting really tough. But JMU exploded. Their passing was crisp and they simply dominated possession, with Katz, Barry, Kunkel, Barry again, and Kunkel again, and in a game that was 10-7 at halftime, JMU won 36-7.

Now things were getting serious. Wisconsin Whitewater had edged rivals Minnesota-Duluth in the semi 15-14. But they really had no answer for Madison’s team play. 40-22. Kunkel was the tournament MVP, but you could also say that it was a complete approach shift that was the real MVP.

It’s supposed to be harder on Day Two, but JMU’s Saturday effort was 2-1, 64 points for, 46 against. On Sunday, they were 3-0, and points for 109, while only 29 against.

“We had a very good day today,” said Madison Head Coach Mark Lambourne. “We learned our lesson yesterday, where we were not good and were fortunate to win. We realized we had to be patient. Saturday was tough with all of the weather delays. But we had to be patient, and we were.”


- Additional reporting Owen Goff