CATS TAKE DOWN CAL, SECURE CONFERENCE TITLE
Kyle Rogers and the Wildcats celebrate the team's first conference title in Sevens. (Photo credit: Alex Ho)
Nov 10- Arizona has made history this weekend, defeating Cal to take the 2017 PAC Rugby Sevens title in a thrilling overtime classic broadcast live on PAC-12 Network.
DAY ONE- CATS OFF TO SIZZLING START
In the opener, a quick start was key for the hosts, with a first minute Jon Rogers score getting things going and a Luke Bartzis try two minutes later after some impressive defense helping the Wildcats to a 10-0 lead. Tries by Zach Heisterkamp and Ben Scoular would seal the 24-0 halftime lead that was added to by Matt Rogers, Robert Figley, and Fabian Lumsden, the first for the new Sevens player in his first match. The 44-0 victory was a good step, with USC up next for the Wildcats.
In Game two, the Trojans made the hosts work for it, with a lone Jonah Eldridge converted try the only score in the first half. In the second period, speedster Dante Weeks came on and made his presence felt, scoring one and setting up Heisterkamp for another to secure a spot in the Cup Semifinals for the Wildcats with the 21-7 victory.
With Pool B on the line, undefeated UCLA took on Arizona with some strong defense early leading to linebreaks for the Wildcats. Eldridge's score early would set the tone with Ryan Hudson giving the Wildcats a 12-0 halftime lead they would not relinquish. A Scoular score off a penalty would set up Garrett Walker for the back breaker, with the Winger's long try securing Pool B for the Wildcats and setting up a Cup Semifinal match with Arizona State.
DAY TWO- CHAMPIONS CROWNED
Arizona kicked off day two on the grand stage of the PAC-12 Network in a Cup Semifinal against Arizona State, with the Sun Devils making their return to the pitch this Fall on probation and under a postseason ban for incidents under previous leadership. With the two schools from the Grand Canyon state both shooting for a title, it was the Wildcats who continued their trend of fast starts as Ben Scoular and Matt Rogers touched down in the first three minutes to give the hosts a 12-0 lead. An ASU response was fast, however, and a Ryan Hudson score just before the break made it 19-5 going in to halftime. With momentum building, a Jonah Eldridge try in the 11th minute secured a spot in the Cup Final for the Wildcats, with two late ASU scores including one as time expired shortening the margin but nonetheless punching a ticket to the Cup Final where they would take on Cal.
In the final, the five-time champs showed their class early and took advantage of Wildcat mistakes, jumping to a 12-0 lead. "Our mistakes, and opportunistic Cal play in those first five minutes made it an uphill climb, but our team leaders said all that needed to be said. Focus on next task, keep working" said Head Coach Sean Duffy. That response came in the form of three experienced players, as Ben Joseph got the Wildcats on the board in the fifth minute and Hudson touched down just before half to tie it. In the second half, it was Hudson who took an offload from captain Kyle Rogers to score and give Arizona their first lead at 19-12. Matt Rogers' grubber and try three minutes later kept things moving, making it 26-12 but the Bears would respond. A 13th minute converted try and a score just at the death made it 26 all and sent the cup final in to extra time.
The Wildcats elected to receive the kickoff for what would be a sudden death extra period. The opening kickoff was caught by Dante Weeks after a solid lift by Kyle Rogers, and a gap in the Bears defense opened which Weeks streaked through. The 60-meter try was the game-winner for the Wildcats, securing their first ever PAC Sevens title and handing the reigning conference and national champions Cal their first loss in Sevens for their first side since 2012. "First off full credit to Cal they are a strong program and they made us really work for it. On our side, I'm so happy for our guys, especially the old heads who have been here through our building times. Guys like Kyle Rogers and Ben Joseph have been through the ups and downs of player development and now that youth movement is paying off" said Duffy.
With the title secured in Sevens, Arizona now shifts to Fifteens season with the 3rd Annual Red-Blue Game benefitting the Humane Society of Southern Arizona taking place this Friday at Sitton Field. Puppies will be on site for adoption and to interact with fans, and 100% of all proceeds go towards the cause.
Game 1 vs Stanford
Tries: J. Rogers, Bartzis, Heisterkamp, Scoular, M. Rogers, Lumsden, Figley
Conv: M. Rogers- 2/5, J. Rogers- 0/3
Game 2 vs USC
Tries: Eldridge, Weeks, Heisterkamp
Conv: Eldridge- 3/3
Game 3 vs UCLA
Tries: Eldridge, Hudson, Scoular, Walker
Conv: Eldridge- 2/4
Cup Semifinal vs Arizona State
Tries: Scoular, M. Rogers, Hudson, Eldridge
Conv: Eldridge- 3/4
Cup Final vs Cal
W 31-26 (OT)
Tries: Hudson (2), Joseph, M. Rogers, Weeks
Conv: M. Rogers- 3/4
2- Ben Joseph
6- Ben Scoular
8- Ryan Hudson
9- Jon Rogers
10- Dante Weeks
11- Matt Rogers
12- Kyle Rogers
13- Jake Hedge
14- Garrett Walker
15- Jonah Eldridge