Day two of Harvest Moon began with overcast skys and 10 mph winds. The rain that was predicted by meteorologists did not come, and spectators turned out to watch the action unfold. As the games played out the teams relative abilities became more and more apparent.
1. Arkansas Plays with Feeling
Matt Jackson is a good player and everyone knows it, but Arkansas will have to rely on more than just one player to succeed; that’s where the supporting cast comes in. While the team returns everyone from last year, those players are still inexperienced and run on excitement and adrenaline. This weekend they were able to keep themselves going, but that won’t work every game. Eventually, all teams have to find a way to finish games against good teams that they have a large lead on. Arkansas might have problems letting teams back into games if they can’t figure that out.
2. Missouri Likes to Rally
Missouri is kind of in the same boat as Arkansas, but with an entirely different problem. Missouri returns a large portion of the team and having three 5th year seniors return gives the MUtants a ton of experience. However, Missouri likes to get behind before they play at their most inspired. On Saturday, Missouri spotted St. Louis two points, and on Sunday spotted Arkansas five.
“We like to [start games] slow,” said captain Matt Francis. “It is a bad habit we have and are trying to overcome.
That game-plan may have worked against St. Louis, but it came up just short against Arkansas.
3. Washington is Missing Key Players and Identity
Losing two All-Region players would hurt any team. But losing Evan Winograd and Joe MacDonald has really hurt the Contrabears. They still have the talent to win games, but the team identity and roles seem to be a little fuzzy right now.
“Things are different. We no longer have stars who can dominate match-ups, but we do have a team full of guys who can run and throw and make plays with the best of them. We just have to step up,” said Wash U captain Jacob Zax.
The Contrabears will definitely have to step up, especially since they appear to be rebuilding after such a strong showing last year. However, I expect that WashU’s coach and captains will rally the team around a common identity and make Washington a tough team by the time the regular season rolls around.
4. Harding Still Gets Tired
Last year Harding made Div. III Nationals by consistently using just eight players, but fatigue became a real problem late in tournaments. This year Harding has made a conscious effort to have an offensive line, defensive line, and several bench lines. That adjustment seemed to make a big difference as Harding strolled into the finals against Arkansas and took a 2-0 lead. The ensuing point was a long one. Harding had several chances to score but ultimately conceded and the defensive line was ineffective for the rest of the game.
Figuring out how to get to the next level might be tricky for Apocalypse, but if they can, they will likely be making noise at Div. III Nationals again.