Denver vs. Schuylkill River
This is a meeting of like teams. They both have some big, mobile forwards, they both play better in a disciplined pattern and they both lack a big burner, with Schuylkill’s Greg Ambrogi hobbled to the point of being questionable for Sunday.
My pick? Denver. They have a few more wheels. Hunter Leland and Kyle HItt looked great Saturday. Leland will probably be the fastest guy on the field in the quarterfinal, and Hitt possesses not only a massive and powerful frame, but a pretty sleek motor, too.
The Barbos just have more guys that can make a play out of nothing, and unlike anyone Schuylkill has played so far, they have guys like Hitt, Jake Humphrey, Ben Haapapuro and Tommy Pasque who can tackle Randy Helsman and Will Knipscher consistently.
Belmont vs. Youngbloodz
This is a rematch of last year’s semifinals. Belmont’s lineup is starkly different, and Youngbloodz’s is very similar. But Belmont is still probably better.
Nate Augspurger looks like he’s gotten another year stronger and more wily, and brother Sam provided some timely big hits on Saturday. But Belmont is bigger, deeper and still more experienced.
Youngbloodz will need Garrett Bender to step up big. He was intimidating Saturday, but not dominant. He has the size and athleticism to be so.
OPSB vs. Chicago
Wow, what a game this could shape up to be. Many, myself included, thought these were the two best teams in the country coming into this weekend. They may still be, but the Chicago Lions played their way into an early meeting with OPSB by never really clicking Saturday.
JP Eloff and Rocco Mauer had flashes of their typical explosiveness, but they never put it together at the same time. Mauer had a good first game offensively against Belmont, but sort of disappeared at other times. Eloff seemed reluctant to take over when the Lions really needed him to.
OPSB is the favorite, with Emosi Vucago at scrumhalf. But Chicago is used to playing great scrumhalves, having played the Youngbloodz while Samoa's Uale Mai was with them earlier this summer. Chicago won all of their games against Mai.
My pick? OPSB, but if Mauer plays with confidence and is given space, I wouldn’t be shocked by an upset.
Old Blue vs. Old Aztecs
It’s the team everyone knew was talented but underperformed against the team that maybe exceeded expectations on day one. The Old Aztecs are capable of being really good, but they lacked any real chemistry, consistency and unity Saturday. They simply survived against Charlotte and NYAC.
And Old Blue looked really good in stretches Saturday and knocked off team-centric Schuylkill River. OBNY is deep, has pace, steppers and some strong-looking bodies.
What will decide this one? Maybe the two guys who didn’t play much Saturday – Matt Hawkins and Luke Hume. Hume is the most electric runner in the tournament, even with a bum knee, and he’ll change Old Blue’s complexion greatly. Hawkins can provide the Old Aztecs with the vocal leadership they’re obviously lacking.