Another Tough Win Holds The Axemen At The Top
The Jacksonville Axemen took the field last Saturday against the Tampa Mayhem with memories of last season on their mind. The last time these two teams played at UNF in Jacksonville in 2021- the Mayhem narrowly squeezed out a win and went on to win the USARL Championship. When the Axemen traveled to Tampa earlier this month, the Axemen came home with a win, but it was a tough game and the two teams were well matched.
The Axemen kicked to Tampa to start and the Mayhem spent a good amount of time in the first few minutes on the Axemen try line. Then as the Axemen had the ball and after the fifth tackle Steven Hill kicked the ball up high which was caught by Axemen captain David Washington. He then offloaded the ball and Vashon Marrs sped in on the wing for a try scored out wide. The conversion kick was no good, but they Axemen led the game first with a 4-0 score.
As the first half continued, a costly knock on from the Axemen led to Tampa scoring their own try on the wing. The conversion was no good with a tie game of 4-4. Tampa carried this momentum through the first 40 minutes, with 2 more tries in the first half and a 16-4 lead going into the half time break.
Back on the field for the second half, the Axemen began to regain control of the game. A kick from Zane Douglas after the 5th tackle was caught by David Washington at about the 15 meter line and he ran it in to score under the uprights. Luke Findlay was good for the conversion kick and the score closed to 10-16, Tampa still in the lead. Then, James Williams then caught a kick from Tampa on the Axemen 20 meter line, and he ran it in the full 80 meters for an exciting try. The conversion was no good and the Axemen started to close in on the Mayhem with a 14-16 scoreline. Another huge run from James Williams brought the ball right to the Mayhem try line and after a couple good defensive tackles from Tampa, David Washington snuck through and scored again. The conversion kick no good but the Axemen regain the lead at 18-16.
Not to be outdone, Tampa took some big runs on the right side to score again. The Mayhem’s Peter Garlando was good for the conversion kick and a Tampa was back on top with a 22-18 score over the Axemen. Things really heated up and the tension was high on the field. Jacksonville’s David Washington broke through a hole in the Mayhem’s defense and ran in for his third try of the game right between the uprights. Luke Findlay’s conversion kick was good and the Axemen took the game back with a 24-22 lead.
Keeping the fans on the edge of their seats, in true Mayhem fashion, they had some strong runs in the middle and the Axemen couldn’t stop them from scoring. The conversion kick was no good, but the lead goes back to Tampa with a 26-24 score.
A great pass from Mason McCrory to Zane Douglas led to a big run into Mayhem territory. David Washington was once again able to sneak past the Mayhem defense and score under the uprights for his 4th try of the game. With Findlay’s conversion kick good, the Axemen took the lead back again with a 30-26 score.
With the clock ticking down and less than 5 minutes to go, the Axemen needed to dig deep to prevent the Mayhem from scoring again. A kick from the Mayhem was recovered by David Washington on the Mayhem 40 meter line, and he ran it in past several of the Mayhem defense for the final try of the game. 2 more points for Findlay’s conversion kick and the final score of the game was 36-26.
Coach Sean Rutgerson was pleased with the team’s perseverance. “They showed some good spirit to hang in there when we were down a few points. There were some really big individual efforts and a great team win.”
The Axemen have now solidified their spot at the top of the South Conference standings, and will host the South Championship on August 13th. Next week the team travels to Southwest Florida for a match up against the Copperheads RLFC in the final regular season game for 2022.