Axemen Seal Top Seed in South
By Brian Lowe Photos By Allene Rachal
The 121 Financial Jacksonville Axemen have secured the #1 seed in the SOUTH Conference heading into the postseason with a 62-10 win against the Southwest Florida Copperheads Saturday night in Fort Myers.
The 11-try haul means the Axemen can’t be overtaken at the top of the standings with one round remaining in the regular season.
“We played a few guys out of position and we got away with it,” said Axemen head coach Sean Rutgerson.
“They started off well and have definitely improved from the last game.”
Kickoff was delayed briefly because of a lightning storm that moved through the Lehigh area, but when play got underway Jacksonville scored within the opening five minutes when second-rower James Campbell crashed into the try zone.
Jed Pearce, standing in for regular goalkicker Lachlan Bristow who was rested for the match, missed the conversion to leave the score at 4-0.
The Copperheads showed early flare and were rewarded for their efforts when Sterling Wynn scored a converted try to give the home team a 6-4 lead, but from that point onwards it was all one-way traffic.
Jacksonville put on six more tries in the first half, spearheaded by center Kyle ‘Stitch’ Grinold who bagged a hat-trick.
He was ably assisted by hooker Jaden Laing who scored a pair, while fullback Will Fletcher added a single.
Pearce converted all six of those tries to increase the Axemen’s lead to 40-6 by the main break.
It didn’t take long after the resumption of play for the visitors to get on the board again.
This time Pearce scored a try but missed with the conversion.
Not long after that, lock forward Khalial Harris got his first try as an Axemen and with the successful conversion the scoreline was extended to 50-6.
However, as they’ve shown all season long, the Copperheads have a no-quit attitude and they were next to score to make it a 50-10 ballgame.
“We really made a big improvement in this game,” said Copperheads founder Curtis Goddard.
And as the match moved into the final quarter, the Axemen added two more tries to prop Kris Townsel and Harris, who notched his brace. Pearce was good with the extras on both tries to close out the scoring at 62-10.
“It was a big one win for us,” continued coach Rutgerson. “It was a matter of getting their attitude right and concentrating on defense.
“We’re really looking forward to next week against Atlanta, it’s going to be a big game. We need to win and we’re going to put everything into it.”
In the other SOUTH Conference matchup, the Atlanta Rhinos tuned up for next week’s game against Jacksonville by blanking the Tampa Mayhem 54-0 at home in the peach tree state.
The Axemen return home this weekend with the final regular season home game against the Atlanta Rhinos. Kick off is 6pm at the UNF practice soccer field.