|Eloff with ball. Dropkick photo|
|Markovich with ball|
When Davenport and Miami meet, both undefeated, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Saturday, the two best players on the field could well be lining up across from each other as flyhalves. The Panthers and Reds are far from one-trick ponies, but JP Eloff and Luke Markovich, respectively, are their stars.
When they played together on the Midwest select side in the spring, Eloff played fullback and Markovich inside center, while the now departed Bowling Green star, Nick Viviani, played flyhalf.
Eloff is a versatile player that can slide pretty much anywhere in the backline, but he’ll almost certainly have the No. 10 printed on his jersey Saturday. Markovich, too, could line up at a number of positions, but he’s spent a lot of time at flyhalf this season and throughout his career at Miami, and with Eloff needing containment, the chances are pretty good he’ll be matched up directly across from him.
If he is, look for Miami to try to tire the All American with some hard crashes from 10, 12 and 13.
“He’s a strong runner. He’s got very good skills, but I guess we’ll see what happens on Saturday. He’s very good. We’ll keep an eye on him,” said Eloff of Markovich.
“I feel like they’ll do a lot of crash balls…I think they’ll test us a lot on defense between me and the inside center.”
Miami fell 30-27 to the Panthers last season in a game that, among others, made the Reds the fourth seed going into the Midwest-East playoffs, which pitted them against Bowling Green, then the top-ranked team in the country, in the semifinals. Miami lost to the Falcons, ending their postseason aspirations.
As Davenport carved its way through the playoffs in the spring en route to a national title, Markovich and his teammates couldn’t help but think of what could have been if they’d held onto their second-half lead against Davenport last September.
“It’s just something that you think about a lot, and you never know what could have happened if we won that game – we get reseeded, possibly get a higher place, play an easier team in the tournament, and then you never know what’ll happen,” he pondered.
“I’m not going to lie, we all think about it a lot, but there’s nothing we can do but look forward, and we definitely look forward to playing Davenport this weekend, look forward to making up for what happened last year.”
Davenport is prepared for a vengeful rematch Saturday.
“Of course, I think they were mad they didn’t get to nationals, so yeah, I think they’re going to come out firing,” said Eloff, “and we’re just going to have to stand our ground.”
Eloff says his team will have to control territory and tempo by kicking, which most likely he'll be taking care of, to play the game in Miami's end. But when Eloff runs, and he inevitably will, he'll be a threat to score. His running ability is not lost on Miami.
"JP is a great player. I really enjoyed playing with him on the Midwest team. I’ve played a lot of games, I’ve played with a lot of people, but he’s one of the most dynamic players I’ve ever played with. I’m really looking forward to playing against him," said Markovich.
"We have great strength in our centers and flyhalf, whatever we play in the backline. Our backs are really our core, so I think we’ll be able to shut him down to a decent respect. He’s a great player – he’s definitely going to make his breaks and get those good passes in, but I think really our strength will be in the loose forwards and really our backs."
The game will be streamed live online by Davenport, with Gene Halbert doing the play-by-play and John Nowak providing the color commentary. Kickoff is 1pm EST.