One of the DI-AA playoff matchups that many might overlook is St. Bonaventure v. Middlebury; neither team is particularly high-profile, and with both teams having wrapped up their league season in the fall, it’s easy to forget that they exist.
Look ahead to the quarterfinals, and you see a very good Dartmouth team likely waiting for the winner. But it’s a mistake to dismiss either team.
Consider that Middlebury has won the national DII playoffs multiple times. They play a tough, intelligent game that focuses on defense and works very hard.
“I don’t care what division you’re talking about,” said St. Bonaventure Head Coach Clarence Picard. “When you win multiple championships, and go deep into the playoffs almost every year, you’re a good team. Middlebury knows how to play pressure rugby.”
Middlebury is coming off a huge victory over the Burlington men’s club, a team that won their league in the fall. Led by captain Ben Stasiuk up front and with Jake Feury a huge factor with 23 points, Middlebury has a relatively unsung forward pack that just keeps battling.
They will have to in order to upend St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies warmed up perfectly for the playoffs with a 22-19 defeat of wheeling Jesuit April 14.
“It was a good game for us,” said Picard. “We got to face up to a team of big, physical Midwestern kids who are also technically sound. To do that and play in a varsity atmosphere, with roster announcements and the National Anthem was great for the players.”
Led by Alex Brussard, Jonathan Garbin and Timma Hanna, the Bonnies forwards are tough and physical, too. All three are seniors and key leaders for the team. If the do their jobs, young backs like Charles Meagher and John Sullivan will score tries.
Meagher is an interesting case. A freshman, he has quickly taken control of the of the scrumhalf position and shown leadership beyond his years.
“We know two groups who are not overlooking us,” said Picard. “That’s Middlebury and St. Bonaventure. We both know this will be a tough game, and we both know one team will be in the quarterfinals.”