Michigan Ends Season, Loses 38-50 to Tri City

posted Oct 29, 2012, 1:35 PM by Karl Seibert   [ updated Oct 29, 2012, 7:19 PM ]

28 October, 2012
St. Charles Complex, Midland, Michigan

The season came to a dramatic but, ultimately, unfortunate conclusion for Michigan RFC on Saturday.  Tri City (Saginaw, Midland, Bay City) had a breakout year after several lackluster seasons, having lost just one match heading into the last regular season fixture.  Michigan was a point ahead of the Barbarians in the league standings, but with Kalamazoo's clinching one of two playoff spots, it was do or die for both teams.

"It looks like they all got stuck in a trash compacter," a sideline observer was heard to comment on the home team's remarkably similar body type; there was a Great Dane on the sideline that appeared to be taller than a few Tri City players.  However, any jiggle in the midsection was only a distraction for Michigan when the Red & Black came on with a full head of steam.

Tri City had all the territory in the opening minutes, but in the seventh, center standout Charlie Berklich broke free down the sideline for an unconverted try.  Michigan seemed to gel for the next few minutes, but a few weak tackle attempts let the Barbarians waltz over the goal line at 9 minutes.  5-5.

Possession and territory stats came about even and both sides looked dangerous with the ball; Michigan out wide and Tri City down the middle.  The "bash-em-up" technique paid off for the bowling ball-esque home team in the thirteenth minute as a crash gave the Barbarians their first lead of the day.  5-12.

Michigan wing Andy Schwarzkopf, a far cry from the rookie he was a few years ago, showed powerful running, excellent handling skills, and some crisp decision making in setting up and scoring the next try.  Flyhalf and captain Aaron Dodd was unable to convert, again. 10-12 at the quarter hour mark.

Referee Matt Maritz, a South African extract, was a tough read for the visitors; he'd penalize the men in blue fifteen times over 80 minutes.  Two penalties in the 25th and 30th minutes were costly as Tri City's kicker was deadly accurate, and taller than the Great Dane.  The second he made from the halfway line. 10-18 to the home side.

Berklich, one of Michigan's top performers over the season, wouldn't allow his team to trail by eight at the break, so he scored off a well constructed gap in the 35th minute.  Dodd converted; the boys would head to the shed down just one point, 17-18.

The third quarter of the match was all Tri City.  Dodd kicked the restart and Michigan didn't see the ball much for the next twenty minutes.  By the end of that nightmarish portion, Michigan found themselves trailing 17-43.  Tri City pounded and pounded away at the same few spots in Michigan's defense and the armor wore thin.  Four tries, a conversion, and a penalty over that span and Michigan was down by 26 points.  Catch-up footy's never much fun, and in a match as important as this, the boys would need a big effort.

When it looked over for the men in blue, a sudden spark saw the possession statistic swing back Ann Arbor's way.  Tri City were the ones on their heels, and a score seemed imminent.  Indeed, fullback Jamie Hickey ran 70 meters through several defenders for a five pointer under the posts. 24-43.  Just two minutes later, Berklich was over again which Dodd graciously kicked from out in front.  31-43.  A win began to look possible for the Ann Arbor boys.

As full time approached, though, Michigan began to sputter as Maritz blew whistle after whistle.  Any momentum seemed to get shut down quickly by some type of real or imagined indiscretion.  Tri City gathered five penalty calls against them in the last ten minutes of the game, and Michigan repeatedly failed to capitalize.

They'd have to score two tries, and as the clocked ticked louder, hopes sank.  Flanker replacement Mike Przybylek, never one to quit anything, grew more and more aggressive and fiery in the dying minutes.  He would have the final say on the day after sprinting full-speed, head-on into the defense, flying through the air, barrel-rolling, and, eventually, scrambling over the goal line.  Dodd would convert, but it was consolation only.  38-50, Tri City.

Next week, Tri City will face Erie, PA, the number one seed from the Eastern Conference.

Michigan had a great season with many positives.  Several new players have invigorated the line up and the boys should do well come spring.

They thank all their faithful supporters and will be training over the winter months.

Tries: Berklich (3), Schwarzkopf, Hickey, Przybylek
Conv: Dodd (4)
Pen: -
Drop: -

15 Jamie Hickey
14 Alex Aizenman (Eboda, 68')
13 Charlie Berklich
12 Nick Whitelonis
11 Andy Schwarzkopf
10 Aaron Dodd
9 Davy Hamilton
8 Hany Shehata
7 Andy Dougovito (Johston, 56')
6 Jeff Burke (Przybylek, 51')
5 Matt Daniel
4 Matt Frech
3 Matt Forsyth
2 Ted Pixley
1 Doug Chapman

16 Robb Johnston
17 Tom Stulberg
18 Craig Heiter
19 Andy Kilpatrick
20 Pete Mulhearn
21 Tobi Eboda
22 Brian Zimmer
23 Karl Seibert