It was a clear, warm day in Westminster, Colorado earlier this month as the USAFL's Central Regionals Championship rolled into town. The usual suspects -- the Austin Crows -- took home the goods at this year's Centrals, but the rest of the day was filled with some exciting games and surprising finishes.
The action started at 9 AM, with two D2 matches played concurrently. The hosting Denver Bulldogs' reserves squad overcome an inaccurate day in front of goal (4.11.35) to start off with a nice win over the Oklahoma Footy Club, while the Nashville Kangaroos scored an upset win over D2 stalwart Chicago.
Up next at 10 AM, the Bulldogs' D1 side, led by Lachie Fleet and Anthony Grippa, took on the Minnesota Freeze, who were coming off a nice showing at the 80/35 Tournament in Des Moines back in June. But the Doggies were too strong and used their home ground to their advantage, winning by a score of 12.9.81 to 3.5.23 to start Centrals off on a high note. Unfortunately for Denver, their run would end at the hands of the Crows, who methodically sent the Dogs packing, 8.8.56 to 3.2.20.
The newly-rebranded Dallas Dingoes (formerly the Magpies) started their day off at 11:30, combining with several Ohio Valley players for Centrals. The Dingoes started off hot, taking down Oklahoma by six goals. On the adjacent oval, the Roos of Nashville slugged it out in a defensive battle with the Houston Lonestars, with the former taking out the latter by only four points.
After the kids' clinic at noon, Centrals resumed at 1 PM with a comprehensive thrashing of Minnesota at the hands of Austin. The Crows were just too good and too fast for the Freeze, winning in a shutout. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs continued their strong form with a hard-fought win over the Dingoes, 7.2.44 to 2.2.14.
As the afternoon crawled on and the weather began to turn, the Chicago Swans squeezed out another victory, defeating the Dingoes on the back of a strong defensive performance. In the final for D2 Pool A, the Lonestars battled Oklahoma in yet another close finish, taking home a 1-2 record for the tourney.
Concurrently, the Doggies' reserves battled it out with the Roos in what turned out to be an old-school chess match of a D2 title. Ultimately, the Kangas were within striking distance every step of the way, but Denver escaped with a 3.1.19 to 2.2.14 victory.
As for the women's tourney, it was a small, but quality, sample of what we can expect at Nationals. There's plenty of rising talent in the women's game, as exemplified by the creation of a North/South rivalry specifically for Centrals. In addition to the hosting Lady Bulldogs, the North/South contingency had women from Texas, Nashville, Chicago, Minnesota and others. The teams had a round-robin style tourney, with games scattered throughout the day, in addition to a women's clinic in the morning.
While the Lady Bulldogs opened the day with a win over South, overall, they had a tough time. Both North and South were hungry to upset the Doggies on their home turf, and they responded with two impressive wins apiece before the day was over. The South was largely composed of members of the Texas Heat, who have been looking stronger at each tournament they've attended since their debut last season.
Austin Crows - D1 Men's Champions
Denver Bulldogs reserves - D2 Men's Champions
North (Minnesota Freeze/Chicago Swans/Des Moines Roosters/Ohio Valley River Rats) - Women's Champions
Austin Crows - 3-0
Denver Bulldogs - 1-1
Minnesota Freeze - 1-2
D2 Ladder (Pool A)
Chicago Swans/Wisconsin Wombats - 2-1
Nashville Kangaroos/Wisconsin Wombats/Arizona Hawks - 1-2
Houston Lonestars - 1-2
D2 Ladder (Pool B)
Denver Bulldogs - 3-0
Dallas Dingoes/Ohio Valley River Rats - 1-2
Oklahoma FC - 0-3
North (Minnesota Freeze/Chicago Swans/Des Moines Roosters/Ohio Valley River Rats) - 3-0
Denver Lady Bulldogs (Red) - 1-1
South (Texas Heat/Nashville Kangaroos) - 1-2
Denver Lady Bulldogs (Blue) - 0-2