by Brett Anker
Cal will welcome Central Washington to Strawberry Canyon for the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Bears and the Wildcats met on Witter field for the same game in 2014 with Cal coming away with a 58-14 victory.
The Golden Bears overwhelmed Central Washington in 2014. Cal scored four tries in the first 20 minutes before Central Washington responded. The big lead was too much to overcome for CWU and Cal ran away with a 58-14 win.
“We are a far different team from that team. That team hadn’t really been battle tested. They didn’t play that tough of a schedule….To have those tough games to really let us know where we are, we are able to build of that and peak at the right time,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco.
Discipline will be key for Central Washington. The Wildcats have started both Varsity Cup games with high penalty counts. After having three players in the sin bin simultaneously last week, the Wildcats will need to clean up their act. While Central Washington managed to hold Utah at bay with 12 men, Cal will be a much more difficult team to contain.
“How they choose to play is between them and the referee. My responsibility is to our team and how we conduct ourselves. Our focus needs to be on keeping our discipline and not getting drawn into foul play,” said Cal coach Jack Clark.
Central Washington has made the semifinals in each of the last three Varsity Cups. The Wildcats are hoping that this is the year they finally break through.
“We are excited to go to Cal and excited for the opportunity and for the guys that were on that team a few years ago,” Pacheco said of playing Cal. “There is definitely some redemption there in the back of our minds because we were not very happy with how we played.”
The Pacific Northwest school has deep and talented team this season. A pair of South Africans, Clint Lemkus and Darren Cooper, are recent additions to an already strong pack. Aladdin Schirmer and Vili Toluta’u are two of the better loose forwards in the country and could provide a challenge for Cal.
“They are real strong. They got some big, strong South African kids who are really good. They are a good team. They have been a good team. They have made it to the semis every year of the Varsity Cup and it is no surprise to anyone that they are in the semis again,” Clark said of CWU.
Cal will make a number of changes from the win over Army last weekend. Harry Adolphus, who had two tries as a sophomore against CWU, sustained an injury last week and will be out of action. While Adolphus is out, the Bears get two players back from injury. Patrick Barientes and Jake Goena will make there way back into the back line. Additionally, upperclassmen Connor Sweet, Drew Gaffney and Nick Salabar will make Cal a more experienced side this weekend.
The match with Army was a bit of a wake up call for Cal. The Golden Bears know they will have to improve to get the job done again this week.
“We are just going to have continue to get better throughout this week. Keep grinding,” match day captain Scott Walsh said after the Army win. “They are big, very skilled team. We played them before they have given us some good action before.”
The game will kickoff at 1PM PST.