Saturday’s match in Jonesboro, Ark. between Life and Arkansas State might as well be billed as a South All-Star intrasquad scrimmage. Last year, these two programs filled 19 of the South’s 25 roster spots, and they might well eclipse that mark in 2011.
Though the Running Eagles have as much blooded talent as nearly anyone in the South, or the country for that matter, they’re still the new kid on the block, the rookie, and Arkansas State is the three-time defending South champ. Sure, the territorial lines no longer apply, but make no mistake, the Red Wolves have no interest in being unseated as the country’s premier program south of the Mason-Dixon line.
ASU and Life’s relationship, with so many of their players being friends and teammates, is akin to a big brother-little brother dynamic, and in that metaphor, the eldest of the big brothers might be Red Wolves flanker Roland Evans, so we checked in with him before this weekend’s all-important match, and like big brothers usually are, he’s confident.
|Cam Dolan racing past LSU. Pat Clifton photo
“We’ve played with those guys in the South for many years, and we know how they play as individuals,” Evans said. “Obviously, as a team they’re a different element, but for sure at the end of the day, we should have this one. I don’t want to speak too boastfully, but I think it’s nothing too far out of our way to accomplish at all.”
Evans will likely line up directly across from two of Life’s best, flanker Garrett Lambert and No. 8 Cam Dolan, several times Saturday. And if there are two Running Eagles Evans knows best, it may well be these two.
“I played with them both in the South and played with Garrett in Canada in 2007 and on the All-American team, and I played with Cam in South and All-American team,” said Evans. “They’re great individual players, and they’ve got a great program down there at Life, and all credit to them. They are definitely going to be a hell of a battle this weekend.”
The combination of Lambert and Dolan has proven lethal so far this season. At several times against Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M, they seemed untackleable. Leading the group of back rowers first in line to bring them down Saturday will be Evans. Is there one he’d rather see head-up than the other?
“At the end of the day, we’re going to have to tackle both of them, so really there is no preference. They’re both good players, and I think they’re equally strong runners. I think Cam’s got a little more pace on him, but Garrett’s quite a technical player and a hard player and got a bit of a step on him, too. I think we’re going to defend them the same, keep an eye out on them and stick to our defensive strategies.”
As it always does, a time will come when little brother can beat big brother. Evans, and fellow ASU seniors Roan Farr and Jeffery Parish, will do everything they can to make sure that time is not now.
“For the three of us, it’s a tight group and a personal thing, and with Life coming in, and we’ve played them before, those are our mates," said Evans. "We’ve really had a good time here at Arkansas State, and every year we’ve gone a step further since we’ve been here, and we want to end on a strong note.”