Despite losing several players to injury over this summer, the Chicago Lions won their third straight Midwest Qualifier, all but confirming the #1 seed from the Midwest at the national championships with one tournament to go.
Leading the way on a team that has been among the country’s best since 2007 is one of their younger players in flyhalf JP Eloff. The younger brother of former Lions and USA star Phil Eloff, JP has led Davenport to two straight D1-AA college championships, and will likely be picked for the upcoming All American tour, if he can make the trip.
Going in to the Rock n Roll 7s this weekend, Eloff, was a little concerned.
“We were a little too relaxed,” he said of the Lions’ performance. “We know we’ll shape up, though.”
Overall, they did. Eloff helped lead the way along with Jordan Highberger, John Huguelet, Eddie Bluemel, and Max Narewski. It was a different type of leadership, though. With Davenport, Eloff has been one of the clear stars on the team, and certainly one of the most experienced.
With Chicago, he can look to greater experience almost anywhere on the field.
“It’s been fun and I have learned a lot,” said Eloff. “It is certainly different playing with the Lions. I know at Davenport I always have to be at my best. With Chicago I can lean on other guys, and they have helped me a lot.”
Chicago has the luxury now of taking it easy in the final Midwest tournament, this coming weekend in Grand Rapids. They have to show up, but if they do that, and participate, they should take 1st in the Midwest.
“We have been targeting being in the top two and getting to nationals,” said Eloff. “But we also know we have to step it up when we get to the national tournament.”
A week of resting up the injured might be a good idea, but you can bet JP Eloff won’t be resting, as he prepares for an August that will include the national 7s club championships, and likely something else to do with the All Americans after that.