Last week was a big one for the Chicago Griffins. The club didn't have its best year last season, and opened up this year against a tough Palmer College in Iowa.
Battling without all of their top players, and in oppressively hot, muggy conditions, the Griffins pulled out a key 27-22 road win.
"Getting a win on the road in the first week was huge," said Coach Andrew Suniula, who didn't play as he is rehabbing from an injury picked up while playing for the USA. "We were not at full strength, but the guys hung in there. We simplified the game plan and the guys did well. We know we need to get points early."
Centers Ryan Beecher and Matt Crabtree, as well as No. 8 Andy Finn and fullback Taylor Welch all scored tries, with Welch adding two conversions and a penalty. Welch played professional rugby league in the UK when he was 19, and was mentioned as a potential USA 7s player. He has been quiet the last few years, but is now one of Chicago's go-to players.
They have quite a few of those, said Suniula.
"We have some young guys coming in from colleges around the Midwest, but we're playing a lot of the veterans," said the coach. "We're still looking to make sure we perform well. The guys are still feeling out the situation with their teammates, because it's early, but we need to get points."
Corey Quaglia, Beecher, Erik Jacobson, Josh Allen, Tim Paulsen, Pat Marek (who didn't play last Saturday but will pitch up this weekend), and the ageless and tireless Brendan Brown all make up a group that has been there before.
So the bonus-point start on the road is a bit of a surprise, perhaps, and now the Griffins have an opportunity to take on a still-rebuilding Chicago Lions, and perhaps move to 2-0 - not bad for a team that was 3-4-1 in league play a year ago.
More news affecting the Chicago Griffins here.