2011-04-02 Cherry Blossom Tournament Report

By Matt Montalvo

Game #1
Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 10
  • Columbia – 6

The Devils started their tournament run against Columbia. While the team came out aggressive and ready to play, they were penalized numerous times which Columbia took advantage of and converted two penalty kicks. However, the Devils fought back and 10 minutes into the first half had a line out at the Columbia 10 meter line. After performing a successful lift, the Devils mauled their way into the Columbia try zone for their first score of the tournament. The man credited with placing the ball down and starting the Crusaders run to the Cup Championship was 3 year starter Evan Haber (Prop). The kick was converted by Senior Captain Noah Reichman (Outside Center) and the Devils were up 7-6 at halftime.

While the Devils were up 7-6 they were extremely upset because they knew they were a great deal better than Columbia and yet their over aggressiveness was keeping Columbia in the game. At halftime, Coach Dublin made several comments which helped reorient the Devils and stop causing stupid penalties. To start the second half, the Devils marched down the field which resulted in a penalty conversion kick by Noah Reichman to make the score 10-6. Now that the lead was stretched to four points and time winding down, Columbia was forced to leave their penalty kicking approach and attempt to go for the try whenever they were in the Devils zone. Each time Columbia tried to muster an attack, the Devils defense rose to the challenge and shut down the Ivy League offense.

Near the end of the half, Senior Flanker Jungmin Morris, an essential piece to the Devils defense, made a monstrous hit on one of the Columbia pack players on inside Columbia’s 15 meter mark. Unfortunately, Jung was dazed after the hit and was put out of commission for the rest of the tourney (No concussion). When the game finally ended the Devils arose victorious 10-6 and were on their quest for the Cup.

Game #2
Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 7 (Forfeit)
  • UMASS at Amerherst – 0

The Devil’s were scheduled to have a second game vs UMASS Amherst (2010 Cherry Blossom Champs) later Saturday but UMASS had at the last minute dropped out of the tourney (Heard we were after their heads and probably pissed their pants and ran). Being 2-0 in group play the were now pitted up against Kings Point in group play who were also 2-0 (Beat Columbia and UMASS forfeit).

Essentially, this game had become the quarterfinals for the Cup, with the winner keeping their dreams of being crowned champs going. Key Player not mentioned: Senior Eric Lewis Clark (Lock), Junior Nicholas Esposito (Inside Center), Garrett Adams (Prop).

Game #3
Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 13
  • USMMA at Kings Point – 3

While the Devils had all day to think about their game on Saturday, waking up at 6:20am in the morning for a 7:45am game the Devils the Devils sadly did not come out firing in the second half. Kings Point was able to take advantage of the Devils grogginess and converted a penalty kick making the game 0-3 when halftime came around. While the Devils may have been down, they were certainly not out. After some motivational speeches by starters Junior James Konicoff (Fullback) and Senior Al Nardi (Second Row) the Devils finally woke up and started the second half like a bat out of hell.

To start the opening kickoff, Junior Nick Palazzolo stole the ball back for the Devils which immediately gave the Devils momentum to start the second half. With fantastic performances by Evan Haber and Junior Matt Montalvo (end wing) the Devils had Kings Point on their heels for the entire game. About 5 minutes into the game the Devils finally scored thanks to Senior Ryan Garriagan (End wing who streamed down the sideline, took a hit, but was able to fully extend himself for the try). Noah Reichman made the conversion and a penalty kick to extend the Devils lead to 7. After being on their heels for nearly the entire game, Kings Point began to become frustrated. Eventually, one of the Kings Points players had Junior Sam Ahmed (hooker) on the ground away from play and in retaliation Nick Palazzolo shoved the player off Sam but was penalized with a red card which resulted in him being ineligible to play in any other games in the tournament.

The game was finally put out of reach for Kings Point by an astounding 40 meter sprint by Noah Reichman down the sideline for the score in the final minute of play. Key players not mentioned: Junior Spencer Mendelson (fly half), Senior Bill Hetherington (Flanker), and Junior Marc-Ardito (scrumhalf)

Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 15
  • Norwich – 3

After their win against Kings Point, the Devils were beginning to play like the Division 1 team they are. Now it was Norwich University that lay in their way from advancing to the Cup Finals. After being ousted last year during the Semi-Finals, the Devils were bent on not letting history repeat itself especially with former coach Jon McGovern on the sideline.

Norwich scored first off a penalty kick (bastard could kick). But whatever hopes Norwich had of winning, the Devils immediately put down with responding of a penalty conversion of their own (Noah Reichman). Several minutes later, the Devils wing broke the Norwich line and it was Senior Ryan Garrigan once again scoring a try for Binghamton. The conversion was once again made by Captain Noah Reichman which resulted in the Devils being up at half time 10-3. With the lead only being a try and a conversion, the Devils had no mentality of letting up so sophomores Chris DeRise and Max Khalilullah who both played phenomenal. While Norwich had several opportunities at the Devils goal line, the Devils defense stayed strong and thanks to efforts by Sam Ahmed, Garret Adams, sophomore Alex Trotta (flanker), Bill Hetherington, and freshman Seth Stang (prop) the Devils defense repelled Norwich.

Norwich was finally put out of commission by Matt Montalvo who made a 50 meter dash into the try zone. When the whistle blew, the Devils arose victorious with a 15-3 win and were now on their way to the Cup Finals.

Key Players: Max Khalilullah, James Konicoff, Spencer Mendelson, Evan Haber

Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 8
  • Georgetown – 14

Even though the game started 30 minutes after the semi-final, the Devils were confident and loose and ready to go. After each team spent the first few minutes feeling out each back line with several kicks, however it was Captain Noah Reichman who scored the first try of the match after breaking through the Georgetown line and outracing the Georgetown players to the corner try zone. Penalties around the breakdown area haunted the devils all tournament and finally took their toll in a 5 minute period of the final. Georgetown was able to advance the ball toward the goal line off a series of penalties and were eventually able to run a penalty play from the 5 meter line that tied up the game. Georgetown’s kicker was accurate and gave Georgetown the lead . An excellent kick by the Georgetown fullback forced the Devils fullback to carry the ball back into the try zone and touch down. The 5m offensive scrum and following plays were repulsed but again resulted in a penalty from play around the tackle area. The penalty play, spot on the field where they scored, and the conversion were replays of the Georgetown’s previous score. The second half started with the Devils playing smarter and more under control and resulted in a penalty that Noah Reichman was able to convert. The confidence gave the Devils a boost and were able to convert that into consistent pressure on the Georgetown goal line. Sam Ahmed was able to cross the line but was unfortunately held up in the try zone. Ultimately Georgetown was able to clear their lines and move play away from their goal line. Several more penalties by an increasingly desperate Devil’s team allowed Georgetown to play in the middle of the field. Without the pressure provided by field position, Georgetown was able to wind down the clock by kicking into the corners forcing Binghamton to play from deep until the time ran out. Georgetown won 14-8.

Coach’s Notes

The tournament was the team’s first opportunity to play outside and was great for the growth of the team and identifying areas for improvement.

Offensively the team executed the game plan, the forwards did a good job of aggressively running getting over the gain line, the scrum half was accurate with his passing and quickly moved the ball away from the rucks, and the backs attacked space and counter attacked effectively, maintaining pressure on the opposing teams. Offensively, there are still many areas for improvement, including support running lines, ball retention, taking advantage of created space as a group, close in offloads, and passing accuracy. The detail work can turn two try games into four or five try games if the team continues to work and practice.

Defensively, the team closed off the options for the opposing forwards and prevented the back-lines from making ground. Until the final game, they team did not give up a single try, and then only from two 5m penalties. The Devils back-row was particularly good in closing down inside channels across the field and ran hard all day. The team looked organized, were flexible offensively and The devils played well for long stretches of the tournament moving the ball with confidence, taking advantage of the other teams’ weaknesses, and tackling well on defense. The Devils continue to improve and the game against Norwich was the best game they have played in two years.

The area of greatest concern is the penalties. Offensively, the penalties were exceeding rare (I can’t recall a single one), but defensively penalties repeatedly caused the team to make extra unnecessary effort. Offsides, hands in the ruck, entering from the side of the ruck were consistent problems through out the tournament at any point on the field. Against Columbia, with the lions backed up against their own goal line, several defensive players did not fully retreat and turned a short bad kick into a penalty allowing Columbia to clear their lines. Another penalty incident occurred during the Georgetown game, the Devils sacked a maul after a line-out 10m from the goal line and drove Georgetown back beyond the 22m line, but lined up offside at the very first ruck, negating all the good defensive play.

Particularly frustrating, the Devils consistently played well on defense, making tackles at or behind the gain line and were rarely under pressure near their own goal line. The good defensive play makes the penalties all the more aggravating in that it appears that some patience would have resulted in fewer penalties without more opportunities for the opposition to score and perhaps more opportunities for our team to score. One goal that was not achieved this weekend was continuing to develop players. In the end 4 players that traveled did not play during the tournament and that situation will be addressed during this coming week.

Overall, the Devils play varied between good and excellent and 5 minutes of indiscipline in the cup final should not overshadow the group’s improving efforts. Finally, for the two MVPs of the Tournament. For the forwards it was Bill Herrington. Guy was everywhere making every hit, getting up and then doing it all over again non-stop for all 4 games. A Herculean effort to say the least. For the backs it was Noah Reichman. Whenever the Devils were in a bind, it was Noah who always came through to bail them out. May it be from conversion kicks, to last minute tries, to kick for touch Noah never disappointed and truthfully lived up to the his title as Captain.