After making their way through a South DI league season that included two blowout losses to Life University, New Orleans was not favored as they traveled to Midwest #3 Chicago Griffins in the Competitive Region #3 crossovers this past weekend.
But New Orleans pulled off a shock win, beating Chicago in Chicago 41-17. The victory marks the club's first entrance into the Division I Round of 16. They won the 2011 DII national title and last year saw their DIII team win it all.
Against a much larger Chicago Griffins team, New Orleans tried to move the ball and use their fitness. This they did, making the Griffins pack cover a lot of ground in the warm weather.
Despite a yellow card for New Orleans No. 8 Cody Cadella in the first ten minutes, the visitors were able to absorb considerable pressure from the Griffins, whose pick-and-jam game was ferocious. Chicago got a penalty goal for 20 minutes of pressure - scant reward for all that field position. New Orleans' defense bent but did not break all day, conceding four penalty goals, but only one try, and that on an interception.
The New Orleans pack was excellent overall, but standouts on the day were lock Ben Benvenutti and flanker Jarrett Falcon, said Head Coach Trip McCormick. Benvenutti twice swung the momentum of the game following Chicago scores by delivering a bone-rattling tackle on the ensuing restart. One such hit resulted in the ball being jarred loose from the Chicago player's grip and providing New Orleans with a scrum deep in Griffins territory.
For his part, Falcon put in a classic blindside flanker performance, getting the hard yards through the midfield, punishing ball carriers behind the gainline, and making smart offloads in space to New Orleans' speedy support players.
Putting the icing on the cake was New Orleans flyhalf Chance Doyle, who was 7-7 from the kicking tee, converting all five New Orleans tries and adding two penalties to raise his personal tally to 20.