At the beginning of the year, the uncertainty of having enough players made Coach Monks question if a rugby football team at Western Academy would even get off of the ground. Last year’s players, Jackson Litts, Harrison Heard, Pablo Granados, Chris Hoekel, Nicholas Ballew and Valentino and Mariano Vigil, were so dedicated to making sure that a Varsity and a JV team formed that “We had to at least make a go of it,” said Coach Monks, and making a GO of it the players and coaches did.
The team ended up having a large number of new players. Many of the new players had to learn the game, which was quite different from the standard basketball or American football many had been playing. This new game they were learning has no forward passing, no blocking, and some really strange terms and ways of playing that is absolutely foreign to the typical American boy—ruck, maul, scrum lineouts. …
Regardless of these many steep rungs to the ladder of learning this game of rugby, the boys came out. Western fielded a full JV squad and a Varsity squad. “Perhaps the boys can play some games and do all right … maybe even win a few,” Coach Monks said at the beginning of the year.
The JV team opened the season against The Regis School whose boys had been playing since the 3rd Grade. It was the JV’s only loss.
The Varsity team opened the season against Lanier at home. Lanier had beaten Western numerous times in the past, so the good guys had no idea what to expect. However, once that first game commenced, the strength and resolve of the Varsity team was immediately realized. The regular season proceeded on with some good wins:
Western Academy 51 Won CUP MATCH 5 points
Lanier Middle 17
Western Academy 45 Won CUP MATCH 5 points
Regis School 10
Western Academy 5 Lost 0 points
The Woodlands RFC 12
Western Academy 45 Won CUP MATCH 5 points
British School 40
Western Academy 53 Won CUP MATCH 5 points
Regis School 24
Western Academy 60 Won CUP MATCH 5 points
British School 24
Western Academy X Won CUP MATCH 6 points
Lanier Middle X Lanier forfeited the game
Points for 259 31 points
Points against 127
Due to being undefeated in Cup (league) play, Western Academy became the champions of the Houston Youth Rugby Association Schools’ Division.
Since there was no need for a championship game there was only one opportunity to really test what the Western boys could do and that was to replay The Woodlands Rugby Club. When Western Academy first faced the Woodlands JV and Varsity teams on the same day, the Western coaches knew that the good guys were in for a big challenge. The Woodlands Rugby Club has been a well-known, powerful rugby organization for many years. They have a men’s club, a high school aged side, and three youth teams. Their high school aged club has been ranked in the Top 10 in the United States for most of the season, and their youth teams have constantly won or placed highly in the club matches and tournaments over the past 10 years.
When the Green Jays JV played the Woodlands 5-6th Grade team the good guys won soundly by a score of 20-5. So surprised was The Woodlands JV coach that he asked Coach Monks, “What are you feeding your boys?” Monks replied, “Western! We feed them Western.”
Following that JV match, Coach Creech and Coach Monks noticed that The Woodlands 7-8th Grade team had 30+ players to Western’s 15. The game requires 15 boys to be on the field at one time. This meant no reserves for the good guys. Though the Green Jays scored first, The Woodlands came back and defeated the heroes in the final minute 12-5. That was the first and only loss the Varsity team had experienced before their match against The Woodlands at St. Pius X High School this past Wednesday. So, this loss set the stage for what was to come.
There is no official Rugby State Championship game for youth clubs or schools. Essentially clubs compete openly. The schools, which are as separate from clubs as school baseball teams are from select baseball teams, usually wouldn’t play the clubs. The Woodlands Youth Rugby Team was ranked #1 among in clubs in the State, so a chance for Western rugby redemption was at hand.
So, on Wednesday, April 12 the Western Academy Green Jays Varsity team played the Woodlands once again. Billed as an “unofficial State Championship” the match was played at St. Pius X High School. The stage had been set and the battle between The Woodlands’ finesse and Western Academy’s grit was on.
Western Academy won the toss and set to receive the kickoff. From the beginning both teams came out fighting like the Spartans at Thermopylae. After several rucking phases, Jackson Litts broke free through a strong Woodlands defensives line to score the first try of the game. Litts then converted his try to bring the score to Western 7 to The Woodlands 0.
Not to be outdone by Litts, Nicholas Gutierrez scored a try by running around the Woodlands defensive line then straight ahead to the end zone. His try wasn’t converted, but the Western lead rose to 12-0.
Just before the end of the first half The Woodlands saw a weakness in the heroes’ wing defense and scored their first try followed by a conversion. The score at halftime was 12-7 in favor of Western.
The Woodlands was set to receive the good guys’ kick off at the start of the second half. From the kick the battle went back and forth, and both The Woodlands and the good guys came close to the try line on multiple occasions. Litts finally broke through several hard Woodlands’ stops to score his second try before The Woodlands responded with their second touchdown. Both tries were unconverted which left the score at 17-12 in favor of the Green Jays by the end of the 3rd quarter.
The final nail was struck when Joey Davidson found an opening in The Woodlands’ defense to run the ball in for the final try of the night. The try was unconverted and time ran out. The Green Jays had won a hard fought battle 22-12 over The Woodlands and ended the season with 7 wins and 1 loss.