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Friday, September 20 2019 @ 03:07 pm ACST

New boys St John's are 2008 USFooty College Champs

North America

It was March Madness in the US and we were following the performances of the best of the best in College footy, that’s right, footy! While most Americans were watching the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight (the US National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball finals), Vanderbilt University was hosting the USFooty National Collegiate Championship. The tourney brought together some of the best college footy programs in the country including Vandy, North Carolina, and St John's (MN).

UNC – Chapel Hill, not only has one of the best basketball programs in the country it also has one of the best footy programs. The Tar Heels have been competing for a number of years against the arch-rival NC State and the “old-boys” of the North Carolina Tigers. Vandy is a relative young club with a lot of ambition. Many ‘Dores represent the Kangaroos in the MAAFL. The St John's “Johnnies” are the new kids on the block but they have talent to spare making a large portion of the 2007 Division II National Championship winning Minnesota Freeze. The Johnnies include many former Yankaroos - St John's students studying at Notre Dame in Western Australia and going through a footy program supported by the WAFL's South Fremantle.

In the opening match, the Johnnies took on the Tar Heels. The Johnnies took an early lead but failed on a few shots that sailed wide, setting up the opportunity for the boys in teal to kick two late goals and lead at the quarter break. It was to be their only lead, however, as St. John's came back with a dominating performance in the second quarter, three goals to zip. In the third, the north-bound North Carolina squad scored the only points of the quarter, and trailed 4.6 (30) to 3.2 (20). However, the north end of the field proved the difference as St. John's won the final quarter and the match.

St John's - 6.7 (43)
North Carolina - 2.4 (26)

St John's Goals: Busse, Brent Mergen (2), Hansen (1)
UNC Goals: Not reported

St John's Best: Brent Mergen, Busse, Danny Hansen
UNC Best: Marcus Hodsdon

In the second match, the Johnnies took on the host Commodores. The ground was drying out a bit and the rain was holding off, providing for some reasonably comfortable playing conditions. The Johnnies came out firing on all cylinders and put three goals on the board early, catching the Dores a little flat footed. However in the second period, the Dores took advantage of excellent hustle which in addition to a few free kicks, also led to two majors. St. John's countered with two of their own and led five goals to two at the big break. The third quarter was quite the struggle with excellent marks, several smothers and top defense causing a lot of errant kicking that kept the scoring down. In the final quarter, however, the Johnnies showed their fitness, and kicked four to one to run out winners.

St John's - 9.11 (65)
Vanderbilt - 3.2 (20)

St John's Goals: Brent Mergen (3), John O’Brien (2), Deutz, Crane, Gabiou, Hooper (1)

Vandy Goals: Not Reported

St John's Best: Danny Hansen, John O’Brien, Brent Mergen
Vandy Best: James Dillard

Match 3 would also serve as the preliminary final. In the match, the team in teal came out flying, kicking often and true, putting Vanderbilt under the hammer the entire quarter. They added another in the second quarter, missing a number of other opportunities, but still put their lead at five goals. The final quarter went to UNC as the Vandy boys fought on valiantly, yet had unfortunately run out of gas. UNC advanced to the Grand Final.

North Carolina - 7.17 (59)
Vanderbilt - 0.4 (4)

UNC Goals: Not Reported.
Vandy Goals: Not Reported.

UNC Best: Ales Finham, Kyle Roche
Vandy Best: Kevin Kammel

In the Grand Final, both sides looked as if they were playing their first match of the day, with the scoring fast and furious: five total majors with a slight edge going to St. John's. In the second quarter, the Johnnies showed their consistency by controlling the play for most of the quarter and getting six scoring shots to 1, but could not kick their way to victory, leading at the major break 5.6 (36) to 2.1 (19). North Carolina knew they were close enough that a push in the Premiership Quarter would put them in position to win it all. And that is exactly what they did, scoring three majors. But then St. John's came back at the end of the quarter and at the siren, the scores for that quarter were level, making their three goal lead quite the uphill climb. The boys from Chapel Hill tried to climb that hill, but were only able to close the gap by one goal. The better skills of the St. John's boys ended up being the difference.

St John's - 8.8 (56)
North Carolina - 6.2 (38)

St John’s Goals: Gabiou, Busse (2), David Slifka, Danny Hansen (1)
UNC Goals: Not Reported

St John's and Minnesota Freeze star, Danny Hansen, was awarded the Most Valuable Player award in the Grand Final.

Thanks to Terence Christian and David Slifka who contributed to this article.

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