The Memphis Tigers ventured to Florence, Alabama to test their metal against the University of North Alabama Lions. The Lions are a D2 team with a good coach and, as we found out, a great field. (They have grass!!!) We were pleased to see such a nice place to play. The only drawback was the 50 yard wide field, which I immediately knew could stymie our wings.
The Lions were a healthy lot, with many in their pack outweighing our lads by 20-30 pounds. We knew it was time to think “Zombie Horde” and use our heads. “Let’s see if these boys know how to run.”
Kickoff was at 1:00pm sharp with the following side starting: 1. Brandon Worley 2. Ian Curry 3. Stephen Smith 4. Chris Lemmons 5. Tyler Mann 6. Josiah Shipley 7. Adam Hairston 8. Kasra Koleini 9. Jonathan Brewi 10. Phil Elliott 11. Thomas Strickland 12. Jay MacDonnchadh 13. Nolan Wilson 14. Tezman Mosley 15. John Elmore.
The lads started off a bit shaky and found themselves defending their own goal line. They stiffened and held, but a penalty was called 20 meters in front of the post and the Lions drew first blood.
However, the Tigers were playing better than the Lions in set pieces and in the rucks. Brewi delivered a nice offload to Phil from a quick ruck and Phil lofted the ball in goal. A race ensued between Tezman, Phil and one defender, who didn’t stand a chance. Phil touched down ½ second before Tez… and the Tigers had their first try. Kasra kicked on the day and took two more points. At 8:24 the Tigers are up 7-3.
Kickoff practice paid off with the Tigers setting nice tight mauls on the kickoffs, driving the opposition and controlling the ball. Rucking was fierce and the forwards played lower and very forceful at the breakdowns. Brandon got his hands on the ball at the 5m and took it over for a try in the right corner at 12 minutes.
The Lions were called for blocking at the 14th minute and Kasra took 3 more points on a 35 meter kick. Josiah scored the next try by running straight through their ruck at the 20m, picking up the ball as he went through. Breaking two arm tackles, Josiah sprinted and downed the ball under the posts. Kas converted.
Nolan wanted to get some action and following 5th phase ball, he shared to ball with 4 other players, getting it back 10 meters out with a couple to beat. He stiff armed one player injuring his elbow, but managed to leap for the try. He was done for the day, but he got his points.
Several players were switched out at the 20 minute mark including 1. Dylan Carter at 1, Jonathan Bauer at 4, Ryan Phillips at 5, August Myers at 7, Justin Hale at 10, Freddy Hodges at 11, Cameron Walton at 13 and Scott Smith at 15.
It took a few minutes for the new players to settle in. Sloppy play and a few bad tackles lead to a push-over try by the Lion forwards at the 23rd minute. However, this would be the last points the Tigers would allow the Lions for the day. (Note to coach, we need to start faster.)
Tezman finally found some space and took the ball down the left side of the pitch, leaving it nicely for August Myers to pick up and score on a 8 meter finishing run. At 38 minutes in the first half, Kasra picked up one more penalty making the score 35 to 8 at the end of the first period.
The second half lineup began with the starters, short of Nolan and Phil. We played into the wind the second half and really never got going. The Lion defense seemed to stiffen, the ball did not fly right and our backs started running sideways, which on a 50 yard field was death to our wings.
The forwards had a last minute charge down the right side of the field in front of the home bench that lasted 3 minutes, ending by Brandon running free to get 5 more at the 39th minute. Kas obliged with the conversion.
The forwards have been learning their lessons. There was lots of great play at the rucks, putting the opposition on their backs and driving them off the ball. I distinctly remember watching Ryan flip a player out of the side of a ruck with the moves he had practiced. Tackles were fierce all day including great stops by Brandon, Josiah and Ian on players twice their size that drove the players back. Technique!
I have reviewed the video and there are lots of things to work on in practice, but we are getting better each week. Our boys played their hearts out. As we improve our decision-making, we will increase our productivity.
Thanks to all the players who made the trip and who put it all on the line this day.
Note: Thanks to Pam Brewi for the photos. They can be viewed on the album page.