After a narrow playoff defeat in the final eight to the eventual 2013 national runners-up Wilmington, the end of last season left a bad taste in the mouth of the 2012 National Champion, Rocky Gorge. Although Gorge has been to the national round of 16 for the last three years, the club has its sights set on returning once again this spring. Even after a 7-0 fall season, the feeling around the team and coaching staff is one of dissatisfaction and unfulfilled potential.
With the new playoff format, only one team from the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) will advance national playoffs. Gorge is currently at the top of the South Division standings and once again in prime position for the MAC playoffs. Rival Wilmington is also undefeated in the North Division. Gorge and Wilmington have squared off the last two years in the conference championship with each team coming out on top once. It could come down to these two intense rivals once again for the right to play in Nationals.
Gorge has three division games left on the spring schedule starting at Washington Irish on March 8th, followed by pair of home and away games versus the Richmond Lions on March 15th and 29th. Additionally, Gorge will test their club against area Division I clubs to get ready for the level of competition they will face in the playoffs.
With a 250-point differential, and scoring an average of 46 points a game, Gorge dominated the South Division this fall season. The season included two shutouts (34-0 vs Washington and 62-0 vs North Bay) and opponents scored more than 10 points only twice. Former Eagle and first-year coach Will Brewington has emphasized defense and ball control, but he is not satisfied with the overall performance of the club.
“I want work on the offseason first," said Brewington. "I don’t want to say lets plan on the spring. It's physical, it's mental, we need to get healthy. I want to work on what we practiced. I don’t think we’re quite ready. I think we still need to keep it simple. We need to the do simple things well. Basic things aren’t where they need to be to talk about Nationals or playoffs. To me, great is being very good consistently. We’re very good, just not consistent.”
Gorge still has the core from its championship season with thirteen returning players, including forwards captain Will Miller and team captain Matt Carroll.
“Walking off the field last week,” said Carroll, “this has been the most unsatisfying undefeated season I’ve ever had. I think we played well, but I don’t think we played near our standards. When you have a certain standard for yourself and you don’t reach that standard, you can’t help but feel unfulfilled. That’s the way our team feels right now, unfulfilled. Our focus at the beginning of every year is a MAC championship and then hopefully onto a National title and I feel we’re not playing the game that is going to get us there right now. “
The inaugural season of the Division III side of Rocky Gorge finally got on track after challenges with team cohesiveness and learning to play together early in the season. The RGD3 won three of its last four games to close the fall season; the one loss was a one-point defeat against the division-leading Washington Renegades in the final minutes of the game.
At 4-6, the DIII side is only one point out of the 4th place in the Central Conference standings. Coach Marc Lycett said the team is “finally coming together as a team. It took us a long time as D3. Finally getting used to each other.”
“If I am any DIII club, I do not want to play our DIII team," added Carroll. "A strong DIII will only mean a stronger DII. Guys are going to move up from DIII to DII. Guys are going to show that they want to play at that top level.“
Added Brewington: “I want the DIII guys pushing the DII guys. No one should feel secure in their spot. We need to be tested in practice. “