|Air Force against Weber State in Las Vegas. Numina photo|
Mountain 7s, to be played at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Saturday, is one of two 7s national qualifiers this weekend. The eight-team field is split into two pools – Air Force, Denver, Wyoming and Colorado State in Pool A and BYU, New Mexico, Idaho State and Northern Colorado in Pool B.
Though new to the 7s world, BYU is the prohibitive favorite to win an automatic bid to USA Rugby’s inaugural 7s national championship.
Some BYU 15s stars, like scrumhalf Shaun Davies, flyhalf Dylan Lubbe and No. 8 Ryan Roundy, have games that should translate well to the 7s field. Roundy, who toured with the 7s Eagles to Scotland and England in 2010, is just coming off of injury but expected to be in the lineup Saturday.
Bolstering the Cougar roster further are a few playmakers coming back from Mormon mission and some exciting freshman. One freshman, in particular, has an impressive pedigree. Trey Sikahema’s dad, Vai, played eight years in the NFL for the Cardinals, Packers and Eagles.
Who has the best chance to knock off the Cougars? Most likely Air Force.
“I think our chances are really good. All the teams that are playing are well coached and have good players and stuff, but I think 7s kind of suits the Air Force Academy, kind of a team-speed type of game,” said Air Force coach Joe Muehlbauer.
“That’s kind of our deal, and we finally got a chance to devote some good time to it. I think we’re ready, not cocky or anything, but I think we’ve got the players in place, and I think we’ll do well.”
Air Force has played a touch of 7s the last couple of years, competing at Denver 7s (hosted by the Denver Barbarians) and the CRC qualifier in Las Vegas in February. The results haven’t fallen AFA’s way, but Muehlabuer says the Falcons’ 7s success rate is due for improvement.
“The history with 7s at the Academy was zero, and it presented itself and I was a 7s guys and always enjoyed 7s and we tried to push it. In the past it’s always been an early summer or late spring type thing, so that’s when our guys go on operations in the summer and they’re never around the Academy, so we’ve had a hard time,” he said.
“Lately, we’ve been able to concentrate on it when the guys are actually in school, and I think we’re finally getting where we should be. In the past it’s always been a second thought – we’ll take care of 15s and maybe we’ll get some fast guys to play 7s. But now we’re actually spending time on it, having actual 7s sessions, getting guys immersed into the 7s way of doing things, so I think we’re on the upswing.”
All of the Mountain tournament games will take place inside the stadium at Infinity Park, with a U19 girls game and a DII men’s club game breaking up the action.