One of the biggest weekends of the year for the RRRC Men’s Division 3 is finally here. In years past, this would have been the wild-card weekend, where teams vie to get the final bid to the Championship weekend. With an uneven number of subdivisions in the Men’s Division 3, some subdivisions would only send one team, where others would send two. This year, there are four regional subdivisions within the Men’s Division 3, so each is guaranteed that two teams will advance into a round of 8, which is to be played out this weekend. The four winners will advance to the TRU/RRRC Championship Weekend on April 23rd and 24th in Austin, TX.
Austin Blacks (1) vs Alamo City (8)
First up in our quarterfinal madness is the Austin Blacks versus Alamo City. These two sides used to be in the same regional subdivision up until this year, when the multi-sided clubs and single-sided clubs were separated. We’re going to be blunt here; anyone who has to face the Austin Blacks is unlucky because the Austin Blacks are very very good. With back to back National D3 Championship titles in 2018 and 2019, the Blacks are still the defending champions due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the 2020 and 2021 finals. Alamo City haven’t shown much in the last two meetings between these sides, as the scores were 112-0 and 82-15, both in the Blacks’ favor. That doesn’t mean this will be a cakewalk though. Alamo City have had a good season, especially considering their start. Joined by players of San Marcos and Countdown City Elite – Alamo City has bonded over the season and started putting it together. They have scored points in every match, only losing twice to the undefeated Fort Hood side. Alamo’s best chance is to score first and put the Blacks’ on their heels. If they can keep their heads down and play a staunch defense, they might hold back the mighty Blacks.
Players to watch:
From the Austin Blacks, we like David Pena and David Goss in the forwards. Both are fit and game smart, they challenge the breakdown in search of turnovers. The backs are nothing to turn from, Evan von zur Muehlen leads the team in points score – thanks to 15 conversions from only three matches.
From Alamo City it’s the back row, particularly flanker Houston Bashus to be all over the pitch. Nicholas Ribeiro is also incredibly flexible and can step up wherever the squad needs him; as one of the top point scorers for Alamo this season, we hope to see him dazzle on Saturday.
Fort Hood (2) vs Grand Prairie Mavericks (7)
Also undefeated this season is Fort Hood Old Skool. Founded from the Army base in Killeen, TX, these boys are … exactly what you would expect from an Army base in Texas. They are organized, dedicated, and hit like trains. They’ve racked up a whopping 236 point differential, their closest match being 22-7 in McAllen. The D3 Central division that they topped this year was no easy one. The division that formerly held the Austin Blacks was reprieved when the Blacks were moved, and everyone wanted to be on top. For it to be the former Division 4 club that’s less than three years old? Impressive. On the other side of the bracket is the historic Grand Prairie Mavericks side. Now, Grand Prairie is IN the regional subdivision that the Austin Blacks were moved to, and that’s pretty terrifying. If you’re going to be the number 2 seed coming out of any subdivision, you want it to be the one the Austin Blacks are in. Grand Prairie are passionate and fluid, they play a very southern hemisphere style of play – which will be interesting paired against Fort Hood. Grand Prairie are also coming off a massive win against the Dallas RFC, who were desperate to make it to the playoffs, so they might have the momentum to overtake the new kids on the block. These two teams have never played each other, and this will be one heck of a first meeting.
Players to watch:
From Fort Hood it’s the commander Ethan Darkow (commander being used as a fun describing word, not his actual title, unless it is, which – cool!) at 10. With a deadly boot and control of a killer back line – expect a lot from this man. Marcus Allen at 8 is another player to watch – probably as he runs over you, that’s okay, it seems to happen a lot. He’s big, athletic, and a try-scoring machine. Allen currently leads the entire RRRC Men’s Division 3 with 9 tries scored over six matches.
From Grand Prairie we look to David Lampe and Gary Daye Jr. who were instrumental in last week’s win over Dallas. Lampe scored back to back tries to help the Mavericks sneak by the Reds 38-32. Daye has rostered six times for the Mavericks this season, and is a massive threat in the back line.
Shreveport (3) vs Bay Area (5)
Topping the D3 North are the boys from Louisiana, Shreveport Rugby Club. Shreveport went 5-0-1 on the season, but surprisingly not by scoring a ton of points. Instead of dazzling with tries, Shreveport historically loves the forwards and relies on their big heavies to make the hits, turn the ball over, and take it back into contact. They’re not a one trick pony though, they have some elusive players in the back line who love to run. As the number three seed heading into the quarterfinals, Shreveport should be taking on the number 6 seed, but since OKC and Shreveport are from the same regional subdivision, they are slated to take on the number 5 seed, Bay Area. Bay Area seems unstoppable, they are on a 5-game win streak, their only loss of the season back in December against the Houston Arrows. On paper, Bay Area is a very similar side to Shreveport, they don’t score a ton of points, but they win, and that matters. Another massive factor to this match is that Shreveport hasn’t been to the championships since 2017 and Bay Area since 2007. Expect Bay Area to give it their all for a chance to return to the finals, and Shreveport to use their home field to their advantage.
Players to watch:
Shreveport’s Leo Wallaert is a menace from the flanker position, he currently leads the team in both tries and conversions. We love a forward that can kick, and a team that lets them. Dan Clemons impresses in the front row as well, he loves the contact and is sure to be a threat attacking at the goal line.
Bay Area has stalwart Jeff Wegman at lock to provide the engine for the scrum, and flyhalf Donavin Apaig who was crucial in the 34-29 win over the Houston Arrows earlier this season.
Houston Arrows (4) vs OKC Tribe (6)
Our top seed coming out of the D3 South are the try-scoring machines themselves, the Houston Arrows. The Houston Arrows have averaged 62 points per game, the highest in the RRRC Men’s Division 3. The Arrows love to challenge the breakdown and use the space out wide for their speedsters, but don’t think it’s all been fun and games in Houston. The Arrows lost to the 5th seed Bay Area 34-29 in February despite their second half surge. So the Arrows have been tested before, and will now as they take on the OKC Tribe, making the long trip down from Oklahoma. The Tribe came down 3-2-1 with a strong win over Alliance 41-24 last weekend that granted them this bid. They lost to subdivision winner Shreveport only 15-28 and then later tied them at home. Tribe’s two losses are on the road, so this trip down to Houston might add a bit to the challenge, but it’s playoffs- and anything can happen. OKC plays a nice open game, their roster is flexible and you often see a lock making a line break as often as the winger does. Both teams are newer clubs and making their first playoff run, so expect them to put in a full 80 minutes, fueled by passion and pride.
Players to watch:
From the Houston Arrows we go with veterans Matt Abrameit and Eric Co to lead the pack. In the backs it’s the winning combination of Dillon Norman and Blake Pellerin in the centers. Trust these guys to attack the gaps and make the massive hits.
From OKC Tribe we’re watching Billy Walker at wing, a speedster with a fierce ability to break tackles and Adam Young to lead the forwards; his workrate unmatched whether he is carrying into contact, making tackles, or clearing out breakdowns. Cole Nelson in the centers will be in charge of stopping the Arrows’ quick attack.
Overall, this will be one of the best weekends that Texas Rugby has to offer. Four teams will advance to the Championship Weekend in Austin, and four teams will go home. Who will it be? Find out this weekend.
*Since rosters are not confirmed, we are not confident that the “players to watch” will be active during the playoff run. However, these players have been noteworthy throughout the season and deserve a shoutout!