Rugby 7's Wins 2nd Consecutive State Championship
The Explorers won their 2nd consecutive 7s state championship, the first back to back fall championships in RugbyPA history.
La Salle Rugby has participated in three of the four Pennsylvania 7s State Championships, but this one was different. First, La Salle returned to the tournament as defending champions. Second, this time the tournament was held at La Salle College High School, the team's home turf.
La Salle practiced all week on the side by side turf and grass fields expecting that the home field location would provide an advantage. Sure enough, the well-prepared team, led by coach Biddy Boyle, once again, walked away with the state title.
The Explorers began the day against a talented Coventry team. Although a formidable opponent, it was one La Salle has had much success against recently. Last year in the 2015 state tournament, captain Liam McGowan '16 (SJU) had a big day, scoring several tries against Coventry to ensure the win. This year Aidan Kelly '17 turned out to be the Coventry killer, scoring two tries of his own and leading the team with solid defense. Additional offense was provided by "Big" Joe Meehan '17, Jack Desmond '18 and Brian Brunner '17 in the 31-7 win.
La Salle next faced Malvern Prep, an opponent the Explorers were wary of based on recent competition and Malvern's explosive offense. Finding themselves down 10-0 early, the La Salle team battled back to a 12-10 win with tremendous defense and scoring contributions from Nick D'Angelo '17 and Shawn McBryde '18 as well as the winning conversion kicked by Tim Groff '17.
Next was a matchup with Bishop Shanahan. Shanahan nearly struck first with a kick into La Salle territory but a penalty was called deep in La Salle's zone which led to a restart. Joe Meehan passed to D'Angelo, then to Kelly who had a beautiful offload to Keyshaun Epps '18 to take down field who delivered to Brian Brunner cutting in only to find D'Angelo again for the 80 meter, team-effort try. Shanahan matched the effort quickly with an 80 meter try of their own but the Explorers gained confidence at the end of the half with another by D'Angelo and quickly followed with another score at the start of the 2nd led by Delaney '17 and Epps which was eventually finished by Meehan to make it 24-12.
In what turned out to be the final match of the day, La Salle pulled Turk's Head, a solid team from West Chester and the clear favorite to win the tournament. Poise and discipline while deep in their own zone led the Explorers to their first score. Following the opening kickoff, La Salle possessed the ball behind their own 22 and played keep away for 1:35 before Brian Brunner found the edge and cut in past the last defender for another full field attack. Mistakes and poor ball handling allowed Turk's Head to tie it up. La Salle quickly regrouped and again kept the ball away from the opponent for about a minute before Joe Meehan took the ball into contact, drawing in four Turk's Head defenders and opening up the wing for Carson Delaney and Nick D'Angelo who found Tim Groff for the finish and conversion. Turk's Head then attempted a kick behind the La Salle defense to create some offense but Shawn McBryde made them pay by returning the kick 60 meters, setting up another Nick D'Angelo try as he sped past the Turk's Head defender on the wing, reached out and dove over the line, slamming the ball down in definitive fashion. To start the 2nd half, Groff fielded his own kickoff to set up the final try of the day, another by Brian Brunner. Groff finished the kick then led the team on defense in the final minutes to cap the win.
The home crowd resounded as La Salle won a lineout and Aidan Kelly booted the ball into touch, clinching the win and the La Salle team's 2nd consecutive 7s state championship, the first back to back fall championships in RugbyPA history.