The clear number one, North Carolina
North Carolina hadn’t played a complete game all weekend, but perhaps the stage brought out the best in them. Cementing themselves as the favorite to win the AC Region, Darkside dominated the field in which they were their own worst enemy. After a close call against Boston College in a 15-12 victory,they destroyed Virginia 15-6. With the game tied at 4-4, the defense decided that enough was enough, and went on an 11-2 run to close out the game.
Not only was the defense suffocating, but the offensive line only had two turns the entire game. They were not broken once, as Thomas Sayre-Mccord and Christian Johnson were too much to handle. Even during the finals, North Carolina continued to develop their depth. Getting contributions from John Nethercutt, Marshall Ward, and others, enabled Sayre-Mccord and Johnson to play sparingly towards the end. Despite three starters, Justin Moore (shoulder), Adam Carr (ankle), and Ernest Thompson being out, North Carolina rolled as if nothing had changed.
After the game, the demeanor was high, but Sayre-Mccord knows that it’s not enough. “We have to continue to get better, we set out to win our first tournament and we did, and we’re going to win our second tournament (QCTU).” said Sayre-Mccord. In the semi-final vs. Boston College, the offense struggled at times, with mental mistakes and bad decision making. With their talent depth, North Carolina was able to overcome those mistakes. However, against the upcoming competition at QCTU and Stanford Invite, they not be able to hide their miscues.
Check out a recently dug interview with Mike DeNardis and Thomas Sayre-Mccord done by our own Jonathan Neeley.
Virginia, moving on up?
Despite two giant losses to UNC, Virginia still can come away with confidence from this weekend. Going 5-2, with wins of Virginia Tech and Maryland (Twice) puts them into the top 4 of the region. Night Train was particularly convincing in their two wins versus Maryland. They were down by 3, 7-4 in the first game on Saturday and went on a 9-2 run to win game one. In the second game, with the score tied at 11’s, UVA’s experience paid off as they would rattle off 3 straight points to put the game out of reach for a 15-12 win.
Aaron Mullins and Brian Kiernan were the two big offensive play makers for Night Train that ran the show throughout the tournament. In the finals, it was clear that they were not fresh enough to deal with the tough defense from a deep North Carolina squad. Both players are good in the air, and should gain consideration for All Region come May. From the handling side of the, Adam Pelleg, Andy Schroth, and Ian Toner all showed signs of being dependable players down the stretch. In the first game against North Carolina, Pelleg had a chest high layout clap Callahan Catch, as part of the big play frenzy.
I said in my AC preview that I didn’t know how good Virgina would be when May hits. It’s clear to me right that they are 4th in the region behind UNC-W, South Carolina and of course North Carolina. Their biggest factor in their losses to North Carolina was lack of a deep game, and a lack of depth. Mullins and Kiernan have the ups to make big plays down the field, but couldn’t keep it up with the majority of points they had to play. Night Train was missing a large portion of their younger roster, which could hurt later in the season. I have no doubt that UVA could make it as high as second in the region this year, but overtaking North Carolina’s depth and talent would be a monumental task.
Maryland, I get knocked down..
I get back up again. After an easy fall season in which the Space Bastards went 27-0, Maryland was knocked down in the first round. Losses to Virgina, North Carolina, and Clemson sent them towards the brink on Saturday. Sunday was a completely different story as they surprised the crowd at ACCUC by being the ones to emerge from the lower field victorious in the quarter finals. A 15-13 victory over Georgia Tech put them in the semi finals vs. Night Train. After going down 3-0, Maryland came back to tie it, trading out till 11’s where Virginia proved to be too much.
The name synonymous with Maryland for the last two years has been Freddie Tsai. Despite his small stature, Tsai finds a way to make an impact from anywhere on the field, and should get large consideration for all region. Marshall Schroeder and Walker Hatchett(Twin brother of Jack Hatchett on Tufts) were the two big men constantly stretching the field and giving their roster some much needed height. Will Park and Evan Ponchick rounded out the main playmakers for UMD.
They may not make it to, or past the semis at Regionals, but they will likely play a role in how Sunday plays out. Here’s some plays on the weekend provided by the Space Bastards themselves.
What I got right.. Boston College breaking seed
Boston College was able to break seed despite their star player Chuck McBride being absent from the field. Savi Tuber provided dependability on the back end with his consistent handling. Andrew Hasebrock was the big offensive cutter finding ways to get open on top defenders throughout the weekend, and freshman Daniel Cattolica had a motor that didn’t stop running on defense. It’s clear that this team has a good amount of experience on their side, but the lack of McBride really hurt their potential for the tournament. They are by no means an easy out for any team that will face them in the New England region.
While they did hang tough with UNC in the semi-finals, Boston College was capitalizing on unforced errors rather than creating enough defensive pressure to force turns. Their offense has an ability to be consistent, but their defense is going to need to step up in the clutch.
What I got wrong, Georgia Tech going deep into Sunday
Georgia Tech was my pick to face North Carolina in semi finals. On Saturday, the Tribe rode the talents of Nick Lance and Jay Clark to a 4-0 record. They had so much to gain by earning victories over mid to upper Atlantic Coast regional squads, which could have put them on a path towards a strength bid. It seems they were a bit caught off guard by Maryland, but with Clark and Lance having the capability to complement each other and control a game, Georgia Tech can still make noise this season.
For most of the weekend, Lance was focusing on stretching the field deep. Often times, Clark would get the initial cut and Lance would book it deep from the handler position. I’ve highlighted Lance’s throwing abilities, but his speed is still something most college defenders cannot deal with. Don’t worry though, his throws were still on the money throwing big flick and backhand bombs and cross field hammers into the wind when needed. Clark was consistent in the air, with an ability to box out and get up from a stand still position over and over. He’s an absolutely huge pick up for Georgia Tech, which will pay dividends in the series.
- Virginia Tech lost Josh Smith for the season due to an injury suffered on a backhand to the face.
- The boys from Blacksburg still haven’t changed their overall look, zone D and big plays
- Clemson made the quarters and looked improved from just a week ago, James Cox is still the center piece.
- Wake Forest has upped their game and plans on going back to DIII Nationals this year.
AC Power Rankings after two weekends of play
I will extend this list as the season goes on. Past these teams there doesn’t seem like enough information to really rank people easily.
- North Carolina – Deepest team in the region (1)
- South Carolina – Got to semi finals of Joint Summit, lots of senior talent, this puts them ahead of UNCW for now (3)
- UNC-W – Still have some improvements to make, may be the team most likely to challenge North Carolina (2)
- Virginia – Getting the bump up from last time, proved they are still one of the top teams in the region at ACCUC (9)
- Maryland – Moves up a spot, deep experienced squad (6)
- VT – Reeling from the injury to Josh Smith (4)
- Delaware – Leapfrogged by Virginia (6)
- William and Mary – Lost to UNC-W by a large margin but had a good outing vs. Georgia (8)
- App. State – There is talent, but very little depth (5)
Did I miss someone? Where do people stand within the mess? You tell us.