Rugby 7s Crowned State Champions
The Rugby 7s team gathered in the parking lot of La Salle College High School at 6:30 am, as it does on most Sundays in the fall, for a Rugby 7s Tournament. This one, however, was the RugbyPA State Championship at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, PA, and it concluded with a historic win as La Salle Rugby captured its first State Title.
The state tournament consisted of twelve established club and single-school teams from throughout Pennsylvania, many of them boasting previous state championships of their own.
The Explorers were an impressive 5-0 in their matches. Everyone contributed to the day, truly coming together as a team, mounting several exciting comebacks, and ultimately rallying against a talented Media team to send the game into overtime then quickly close it out for the win.
La Salle's first draw of the day was a Doylestown team coming off its own state championship this past spring season. The Explorers were plagued by slow starts all day and the Dragons possessed the ball much of the first half and scored in the final minute.Liam McGowan '16 and Danny Murray '16 both scored in the second half, but Doylestown put another one on the board as well.The difference in the game was McGowan's 2-point conversion kick following his try. Strong defense, including a game saving tackle by Chris Frascatore '16, maintained the 2 point lead as the team went on to a 12-10 victory.
Game 2 was against Coventry and again the Explorers found themselves quickly behind by 12 points. An urgent yet undaunted team settled itself at halftime and three straight Liam McGowan tries (two of which were converted) sent the Explorers up seven points for the 19-12 victory. Teams were reseeded after pool play based on wins and losses and points scored. Four teams were eliminated and the top eight went on to the knockout round.
Based on the seeds, La Salle at No. 2 matched up against the No. 7 Doylestown Dragons yet again, a worrisome pull considering the narrow victory in the first game. However, La Salle finally put together a surge of offense including a combined three tries by La Salle Lacrosse teammates Luke Sabia '17 and Kyle Landis '16 and another tally by McGowan. Each try was centered under the uprights and McGowan converted all four tries for a 28-10 victory.
La Salle then met with a team from Gregory the Great Academy. The Highlanders eliminated La Salle from the State Tournament last year and have been a struggle for the Explorers this season. A few errors led to GGA scores, but good defense made for difficult conversions and the kicks were missed.However, the Explorers came back with two identical Kevin Noonan '16 tries as he took the ball down the sidelines 60+ meters each time then beat the last line of defense to center the ball under the sticks. Both kicks were made and strong defense led by underclassmen Kelly, Groff, and Brunner allowed the Explorers to hold on to the 14-10 win which silenced GGA's impressive student section and sent La Salle to its first state final appearance in its three year history.
The final match of the day kicked off at 5:00 pm as the sun began to set on the long day of competition.The Explorers kicked off to a talented and fast Media team who struck quickly and La Salle was once again down 12-0 early. Kevin Noonan '16 got things started with another long try set up by an aggressive run by Junior Tim Groff '18. Media scored again and the Explorers were once again down 12 points with little time left in the game. Danny Murray came through again with a huge score, cutting Media's lead to 7. With no time on the clock, Luke Sabia entered the try zone in the corner but was able to shake off several tacklers and center the ball for the 2-point conversion needed to tie the game. Hearts dropped as Liam McGowan, whose strong kicking day at 10 of 13 was responsible for 20 points on Sunday, struck the upright with the kick.The ball trickled through the uprights to tie the game at 19-19 for a 5 minute, sudden death overtime period. La Salle had to kick off to Media to start the extra time but strong defensive play from Tim Groff let to a poached ball by Luke Sabia who drew contact but was able to offload to Liam McGowan who was bought down at the try line but able to extend over the line, touching the ball down in definitive fashion for the tournament winning score.The final score of the State Tournament final match was 24-19. Again, it was truly a team effort to win all five matches to capture the championship and notable play, mainly patient defense and strong tackling, came from all players including Chris Hurrey '16, Aidan Kelly '17, Brian Brunner '17, Brian Dolan '16, Andy McNabb '16, Jeramy Sica '16, Nick D'Angelo '17, and Shawn McBryde '18.