By Justin Rutledge | 3.19.17
March has arrived and – on the calendar at least – spring is here. Even though Cleveland has decided to dump some more snow on the city, the rugby schedule marches on. For both the Crusaders’ sides, the weather will be the least of their worries once matches begin. For the DII and DIII sides, every match is important; and in every match, the Crusaders are up against some stiff competition.
Cleveland’s finest rugby club will open its spring on the road at the Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day tournament in sunny Georgia. The DII side will be defending its title as Gold Division champions, while the DIII side will be pursuing its first piece of hardware. While the brackets aren’t quite set, the field is certainly thick with top-notch competition. From Palmer to the Milwaukee Barbarians, the Willing to Life University, the field is thick with big names from around the country. There are even a few select sides named among those set to compete. If both teams want to have as much success as possible, execution must be at the highest level and kept that high throughout the weekend’s slate of matches.
Following that opening weekend, the Crusade comes home – or at least a little closer – with two more Division I opponents. On March 18, both sides travel to face Columbus, one of the hottest sides in Division I this year with a strong secondary side. On April 1, the Division II side hosts Buffalo.
Columbus, seemingly, came out of nowhere to shock the rest of the Midwest DI world. On the way to a 7-3 record and a third-place status in it league, Columbus knocked off some of the league’s heavy-hitters and secured some convincing wins. Columbus isn’t short on talent, which makes it a formidable foe from the jump. Columbus is a well-coached squad with a core group that has played together for a while. This familiarity with one another can be the deciding factor when matches get tight and the win is on the line.
For the Crusaders’ sides to silence their opponents, the players need stay on their toes and keep imposing their will in every element of the game. Columbus has managed to thrive in the toughest league in the region, which means they will be very adept at taking advantage of mistakes and lax play. With this being the case, efficiency will be key on offense. Each strike must be meaningful and impactful – no wasted motion and no opportunities left on the field. The defense must be on point from the first tackle to the last to stifle Columbus’ attacks. Line speed will prevent the runners from gaining momentum and put runners under the pump. Hopefully, this speed will force Columbus to create some errors that the Crusaders can take advantage of.
Buffalo and the Crusaders aren’t strangers to one another. In Cleveland’s short history, the two clubs have been involved in numerous clashes on the field. Last time the two faced off, the Crusaders ventured north. This time, Buffalo visits the hallowed grounds of Edgewater Park. That familiarity, alone, will make this match a challenge. Both teams know what to expect from one another. Both know what the other is capable of. The deciding factor will be desire. Whichever team wants the win more will be able to put down its opposition and get the win.
The first half of the spring schedule is merely the opening act to get both teams for playoff runs. Once April gets into full swing, the Division II side sets its sights on some unfamiliar quarry from the other side of the region, while the Division III players finish up league play. A lot is at stake in the spring, and as the season develops the stakes get higher. But that’s a preview for another time.
As always, keep an eye on the team Twitter and Instagram accounts for lineup announcements, score updates, social endeavors and more.