Cal State Long Beach sits clear atop the Gold Coast after an impressive 72-12 defeat of Grand Canyon University Saturday.
GCU was hit with some injuries but still fielded a big, powerful forward pack. Battling the heat of an Arizona February afternoon the Long Beach 49ers worked the ball wide as much as possible, and the tactic worked nicely.
“I was worried going into this game,” said CSULB Coach Jason Reynolds. “We had never seen them play before and they were huge. Our pack is usually small, but we held our own, did well in the scrums and didn’t have any problems in the lineouts. Our maul was good. But we knew we had to play away from those forwards in open play, and that’s what we did.”
A well-conditioned 49ers team enjoyed another very good game from their halfback combination of Roland Blackiston and Steven Bodley. Reynolds is very high on Blackiston, an aggressive and intelligent scrumhalf, while Bodley kicked extremely well, often nailing conversions from the touchline. The pair accounted for all 19 of the 49ers first 19 points; Blackiston scored four tries on the day, and Bodley scored two and kicked another 22 points.
No. 8 Jerell Abellera-Neri, wing Anthony James, each scores tries and fullback Devon Stone added two.
Meanwhile, the resurgent USC team continued to play well, and logged an impressive 36-24 win over Santa Barbara City College, moving to 4-1 and securing a place in the Gold Coast Conference’s playoffs. Flyhalf Adam Bushell scored a try and his kicking accounted for another 11 points, while prop Luis Lopez, center Dimitriy Veremeenko, scrumhalf Jeffrey Cohen, and flanker Michael Cesar all scored. Tries from Bushell and Lopez staked the Trojens to a 14-0 lead, but SBCC came storming back, showing some of that flair that has seen them win so many games in the past. Three tries from SBCC put them up 19-14 at the break.
But Veremeenko’s try tied the game and Bushell’s conversion put the Trojans ahead to stay. Two more USC tries and a penalty from Bushell sealed it at 36-19 before SBCC scored another late.
Cal State Fullerton slammed UC Irvine 69-19 to record their first win of the league season and put them in the conversation for a playoff bid. CSULB and USC are in the semis, with SBCC 0-3 but mathematically still eligible. But Irvine can’t make it. But the fight for the final two playoff spots are likely between GCU (2-2), San Diego (2-1), and Fullerton (1-2).
Santa Barbara plays Irvine next week and should win that game. Then, a March 12 meeting with Long Beach State carries much importance. The key game is likely going to be Grand Canyon v USC on March 5.