A National Championship is still in the minds of the Saratoga Stampede as they look ahead to the national semis June 1-2 in Glendale, Colorado.
The Stampede galloped over Philadelphia-Whitemarsh 28-19 in the Round of 16 and then defeated Hilton Head 30-14 in the National Quarterfinals in Virginia Beach a week ago to give them a shot at the DIII semis.
Team captain Stephen Aguglia gives a great deal of credit for the team’s success to the coaching staff, led by Jaco Visser, noting the work they do in scouting and game-planning. Aguglia said that knowing what to expect from the other team, and executing the game plan and tactics prepared by the coaching staff, was a main factor to their success in both matches on the weekend, especially with such short time to prepare for the match against Hilton Head.
But it was earlier in the season that the team started thinking national title. After a big win over MIT, said Aguglia, he realized “we had a pretty special group of guys.”
There then followed a clash with New London, the defending New England champions. The game planning and research of the coaching staff, combined with execution and confidence, led to a victory against New London, said the captain, and after that, the team believed that “we can compete with anyone.”
Saratoga is led by flyhalf Trent Jackson, fullback James Ferguson, and No. 8 and co-captain Jason Huart.
Jackson has “an amazing foot,” said Aguglia, and got the team out to an early lead with his penalty kicking. Ferguson did an outstanding job on the counterattacks and made opponents miss all weekend, while Huart had a solid weekend with contributions both offensively and defensively.
Aguglia noted that these three were difference-makers, but “there wasn’t a weak link on the team from 1-15,” and also gave credit to solid efforts from substitutes.
They will need the same going into the national semifinals, and Aguglia said that in order to win the team needs to continue to execute flawlessly.
Aguglia and the Stampede are well aware that their opponent, Oceanside, is an intimidating team, but they also know that their opponents will be well-scouted, and that Visser and his staff will have the team ready.