Bailes Soars Playing Flyhalf Position in Win Over Chico State

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Quarterback controversies are a popular topic of discussion among Cal football fans, but they tend to get more vigorous when the quality of play deteriorates.

It's unlikely that Cal rugby fans will be debating "Engelbrecht or Bailes" anytime soon, but James Bailes' encouraging play at flyhalf showcased the Bears' depth in a 97-12 romp over Chico State on Saturday in Chico, Calif.

"I've played flyhalf for quite a while," Bailes said. "I felt pretty comfortable there. It was fun to get the ball a little bit and help out."

Flyhalf is the most comparable position to quarterback in football. Usually responsible for calling plays and facilitating both the offense and defense, the "No. 10" is often reserved for captains and leaders.

"I think James has the potential to be an excellent flyhalf," coach Jack Clark said. "He's such a good communicator. I thought he did very well. We could move him to the flyhalf position without any trouble."

Senior Keegan Engelbrecht usually starts at flyhalf, but Clark slotted the Cape Town, South Africa native at the No. 10 position as part of a mixed lineup that started the match.

Bailes was replaced by junior Todd Grant in the 33rd minute, but his strong play at a different position gave the Bears some reassurance about the versatility of their back line.

The only usual starters were Bailes, Jason Law, Drew Hyjer and Derek Asbun. With a commanding 52-0 lead at halftime, the Bears played the majority of the second half with reserves. Clark said that eight true freshmen were on the field when the final whistle blew.

Standout freshmen Tyler Colin, Jared Braun and Seamus Kelly turned in excellent performances, compiling five tries between the three of them. Braun has now scored 13 tries in seven games for the Bears.

Sophomore fullback Anthony Lombardo, who has been responsible for some eye-popping runs and physical play when he has come on as a reserve, led Cal with four tries. The exorbitant point total is always nice for the Bears, but the preparation for this match and the resulting execution gave Clark the greatest satisfaction.

"I thought we played pretty well," Clark said. "We had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do and we did a good job taking it away. When you make a team go to plan B, it more often than not works out ... It's a sign that we are improving and that is important."

Bailes agreed that even though they expected to win the match handily, their preparation was as good as it has been for any opponent all season.

"We were focusing on Chico beforehand an keying in on making the right decisions," Bailes said. "We did that really well today."


Contact Gabriel Baumgaertner at [email protected]

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