WILDCATS WIN IN PLAYOFF PREVIEW
#15 Arizona 30
#18 Air Force 28
Bronson Teles contributed a key try and some stout defense to the Wildcats' win over Air Force.
Mar 6- Arizona traveled to Las Vegas this past weekend in their first neutral site match, a clash with West Conference champion Air Force Academy. With both teams inching towards a playoff berth next month, Saturday would prove pivotal as teams look to position themselves for a stretch run.
The importance of this was not lost on the Zoomies, who jumped to a 7-0 lead early before a Luke Thayer penalty brought them to 7-3 in the early stages. A Kalanie Aholelei try set up by Flyhalf Kyle Rogers made it 14-3 before Lock Bronson Teles rumbled for a try down the right touchline in the 23rd minute to make it 15-7 Wildcats. Air Force would not back down, however, scoring a try in the 36th minute to make it 15-14 going in to the break.
The Wildcats got the seond half started with some great attacking play, leading to a chip shot penalty for Thayer to make it 18-14 before the Zoomies responded. An Air Force try gave them their first lead of the match, before a 65th minute try made it a ten point advantage. In the final bit of action, however, the Wildcats took control, starting with a dominant lineout leading to a Sean Coleman try to make it 28-23 Air Force with little time remaining. It was then that Wing Ben Joseph took the stage, snatching an Air Force pass out of the air and galloping for the game-tying score that was converted by Thayer to give the Wildcats the dramatic 30-28 lead. An Air Force restart gathered by the Wildcats and kicked in to touch was all that was left as they earned their third straight victory in Vegas and second straight against the West Conference, having defeated Colorado last year.
The win was marked by a lot of back and forth, but the atmosphere was one that Head Coach Sean Duffy said his team needed to feel before April. "We are not looking too far ahead, but we felt this was a playoff game for us" said Duffy "they are conference champs, those are the teams you'll see in April, and we needed this environment to show the guys what it takes to battle and gut out a win in a tough environment."
Arizona Second XV also kept their undefeated record intact, scoring a 35-14 victory over Air Force Junior Varsity.
Arizona now turns their attention to the 5th Annual Parseghian Cup, hosting Notre Dame this coming Saturday at Sitton Field.
Tries: Aholelei, Teles, Coleman, B. Joseph
Conversions: Thayer- 2/4
Penalties: Thayer- 2/3