The Chicago Lions have won all of the Midwest qualifiers so far this season, and should be well ahead in the standings.
However, the club failed to properly register a player in time for the Minnesota 7s, the first of the series, and so had to forfeit points as a result. What that means is, with just the Rock Hard 7s in Grand Rapids, Mich. to go, Chicago is still in first place, but by a single point over the Milwaukee Barbarians.
“We met with the players before last weekend and told them the situation,” said Chicago 7s Head Coach Jeremy Nash. “We told them that it wasn’t their fault. It was an error on the part of the coaches and the administration, and what they could do to help was to go out and do what they’ve been doing, and win.”
Simple as that. The players responded, winning the Rock n Roll 7s in Cleveland.
“It was a difficult situation, but in this series it’s always a difficult day,” Nash said. “We went into this series saying there was not going to be an easy game, not going to be an easy day, and that has proved to be true.”
The secret for Chicago is a snappy combination of individual talent and team approach. Central Washington player Zach Siemens has emerged as a very useful player, making repeated line breaks and then setting up his teammates. Dan Wright and Tanner Barnes, both strong finishers, have been beneficiaries of those line breaks. Eddie Bluemel and Matt Degutes provide experience and leadership, while Max Narewski is that guy who takes a pass and gives a pass, sometimes touching the ball three times in a movement – his ball movement has been crucial.
And then there’s Peter Tiberio. He has changed his game a little bit – distributing more and letting others score the tries. He says he likes that better, and that approach certainly fits into the team ethos.
All that combines to make a team that is winning, and winning in a pretty tough summer series.
“We gave ourselves the goal of going 5-0 in the series, and in fact going every tournament,” said Tiberio. “I think we still have that goal, and we’re peaking at the right time. The fact that we lost those points might be a good thing. We know now this weekend we have to win.”