The Varsity season started off a bit slow in November, with a lot of new players not real sure about what they had gotten themselves into. As is typical of the way American athletes get involved in the game goes, as the season progressed, they were all wondering why they had never played rugby before. January was the first test of new skills and while it was a bit unrefined and a little disorganized, a win against Plano saw the advent of the “Bruise Brothers” Brandon Barnett and Dustin Wolf. It also saw the potential for this team to do good things on the pitch. Next up, we took to the the road against perennial State Champion Austin Westlake. We didn’t travel well and from a scoreboard perspective the day was a disaster, but there were moments of brilliance during the course of the match. Notably, from backs Makoa Noble and Jake Rivera who kept fighting to the end as well as forwards Matt Brownell, Sean Leshe, and Nick Cruz who filled in admirably for missing regulars. The game was an eye opener to the newer players and while the score didn’t reflect the amount of energy and effort that went into the match, the coaches saw the heart of a lion in the spirit of this team.
February saw a team of potential do something good and something bad. We opened our league competition with a huge win over St. Thomas, Alex Rayton set the pace in a game that saw Austin Shaw claim his right to play in any backline, while Nick Purcell made a statement on who will dominate the front of any lineout he is in. Stijn Albers also made his debut for Varsity coming up from JV to fill in at second row and impressing the coaches with his ability to adapt to the faster pace. The second part of February was not so kind and as we lost focus, we also dropped a game against a very good Kingwood side. Phillip Walker stands out in the loss as playing above his head to mark a very powerful opposite and holding his own.
Facing elimination from the state finals, March saw a team that was focused and resolved to play to their potential. We opened the month with a match on the road against an undefeated Cy-Fair team. Friday night under the lights was good for us and the front row of Connor Mackie, Evan Smith, and Sipi Save took control of the game early, crushing their opposites and establishing a hard-nosed approach to the game. The result was total ball control and a bonus point win over a very good team. We opened our next game at home against Katy with the return of Ryan Fischer to #8 and a new look in our backline. Captain Charlie Gordon was slated back into the #9 position with Chris Sukalski making his debut at 10. The combination proved to be lethal to Katy as we were finally able to play on a field with width and use our backline to score 26 unanswered points in a hard fought match. The final match of the month was against Memorial who showed heart against a team on a mission. Gage Aucoin played well in a scrappy match, while Jimmy Watson played hard man and cleared out anything that wasn’t ours around the breakdowns. The result was another bonus point win and claim to first place in the South Division.
April is here and with a forfeit win against Strake Jesuit there was only St. Pius in the way of a Division Championship. The match was played mid-week on the road with a crowd of Woodlands supporters braving Houston traffic to see the culmination of a well played season. Kameron Gladney came into his own and ruled over the middle of the field with an iron fist. Running hard and tackling even harder it made for a long night for our opponents. Cody Chutz and Nick Shackleton saw some much needed playing time while Maurice Ruf established himself as a force to be reconed with, running hard and making sure we kept possession. James Tupes made his debut on the wing making his presence known from the moment he touched the ball. The result was an avalanche of tries in a lopsided win to claim the Division title.
Looking back on it, the season has been an amazing trip from a group of guys that weren’t sure about what they were doing, to a team that has every intention of winning a state title. As we noted early in the season, a team of potential who’s next phase of the journey starts Saturday in Dallas. That is where we will see potential realized and if we play to that potential that is when we can stop talking about the team that could be and become the team that is.