by Brett Anker
Cal defeated Arkansas State 43-13 to win its second consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup title.
Cal asserted itself early in the game after winning a penalty off the opening kick off. The Bears kicked to the corner and worked a maul off the lineout. They worked it back and forth through the phases and winger Sam Cusano outflanked the defense for a quick score. Russell Webb nailed the conversion to take a 7-0 lead.
Any momentum early on was stymied, however, due to a nasty injury to lock Robert Paylor. He was carted off the field and the game stopped for ten minutes. Arkansas State worked its way back into the game and spent the next 15 minutes in Cal territory.
“It was tough, Robert Paylor has given everything this year. When we were in the huddle we made sure we started playing for him,” said Cal captain Russell Webb.
A turnover by Cal led to a counterattack opportunity for ASU. The Red Wolves kicked down field and Cal was forced to take it into its own try zone for a five-meter scrum. Cal was penalized at the scrum and ASU went quick. The Red Wolves worked their way wide and Zac Young appeared to be over the line. The referee called a knock-on and the try went begging.
Arkansas State continued to push, though, and had won a penalty in Cal territory. They elected to go for points and cut Cal’s lead to 7-3.
Cal spent the next 15 minutes pounding the ASU line but missed several good opportunities. ASU attempted to run out of its own try zone several times and turned it over each time. Valiant defense and a couple of untimely knocks kept Cal off the board. The Bears finally broke through after four attempts at the line. Prop Kevin Sullivan powered over from five meters out to extend the lead 14-3.
With four minutes left in the half, ASU kicked off to Cal. The Bears broke down the left sideline, swung the ball wide, and fullback Aidan Flynn walked in for a 19-3 halftime lead.
“When you don’t come away with points after being on their line for so long, it does effect you mentally and can effect momentum. Credit to the lads for keep battering away and further on in the half we capitalized and brought the momentum back to our side,” Webb said of the first stanza.
Cal continued to dominate possession and territory in the second half. Russell Webb put a kick through and after ASU flubbed it deep in its own territory, Cal pounded on the ball and scored a try in the corner to extend the game to 26-3. Sam Cusano extended the lead to 33-3 after finishing off a flashy sequence through the hands before ASU got its first try of the game to cut the lead to 33-8.
Cal responded with a penalty and Cusano’s third with 15 minutes left in the second half to put the game away. The Red Wolves added a try at the death, but it was all Cal with a 43-13 final.
Kevin Sullivan took home MVP honors and the Bears took home their second consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Title.
“It means a lot,” Webb said of the win. “We had a rocky road this year and the guys worked so hard behind the scenes in training, grinding…. It came through and I could not be prouder of the guys.”