Junior Gents rugby team back and rolling this spring, host Summit on Saturday | PostIndependent.com

Junior Gents rugby team back and rolling this spring, host Summit on Saturday

Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times
Luis Mariano works through passing drills during the Junior Gents rugby practice on Thursday in Willits.
Austin Colbert / The Aspen Times

JR. GENTS 2018 SCHEDULE

March 3 at Northside, 19-17 loss

Saturday vs. Summit, 1 p.m. in Willits

March 17 at Wheatridge

March 24 vs. Fort Collins (Willits)

March 31 vs. Grand Junction (Willits)

April 7 vs. Weld (Willits)

April 14 at Vista

April 21 at Pike’s Peak

Laughlin McIntyre doesn’t feel pressured to help coach the Junior Gents rugby team.

The Aspen High School senior is all for it, though.

“It’s more of a want to. I want to make everyone enjoy the game as much as I do,” McIntyre said. “There is a lot of young talent out here. Some kids have never even touched a rugby ball before. This is their first time on the pitch.”

McIntyre is one of the 20-some players to come out and play for the Jr. Gents this spring, the high school division of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club. His father, Cameron McIntyre, is a longtime fixture in the local rugby scene and helps coach the team.

Unlike Laughlin McIntyre, who has grown up around the game in some capacity, rugby is brand new to most of the Jr. Gents this season. A large portion of the team comes from Glenwood Springs, recruited in by Tory Jensen, a noted Glenwood football coach who helped start the high school club about 15 years ago.

“We seem to have gotten some of the athletes that tended to get overlooked on other sports teams and they’ve really just latched onto this sport and flourished,” said Jr. Gents head coach Zach Hendrix. “Rugby is unique in that it allows you to kind of be the renaissance man of all athletic acts. You are expected to pass, you are expected to run, you are expected to kick, you are expected to tackle. They seem to appreciate the level of freedom rugby has provided them.”

Hendrix, a 2009 Aspen High School graduate, played for the Jr. Gents back in the day. With Cameron McIntyre at his side and Jensen helping bring in players, the Gents were able to field a team this spring after having to mostly sit out last season because of low numbers.

When the Jr. Gents opened 2018 play last weekend — a 19-17 loss at Northside — it was the first time most of the players had ever competed.

“It was just our first game. We had to get the jitters out,” said team captain Isaias Hernandez, a Glenwood Springs High School senior. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s way different than all the other sports I’ve played.”

Like many of his teammates, Hernandez comes from a background mostly consisting of football and wrestling. This meant last weekend’s game was a big eye-opener for almost all of them.

Despite the inexperience, the Jr. Gents matched Northside try for try and only came up short on the conversions.

“I’m just proud of them,” Hendrix said. “If the game had gone on about five minutes longer, I definitely think we would have come back. They were learning as they were playing.”

The Jr. Gents next play at 1 p.m. Saturday in their home opener against Summit County, one of the strongest high school programs from year to year. The Gents play their home games at the rugby pitch in Willits.

The Jr. Gents will play eight total games this spring before the playoffs. The team has had postseason success in the past, winning the Division II state championship in 2013.

For more information, go to http://www.rugbycolorado.com.

The Gents are still recruiting players for the spring season. They hope to form a group for various 7s tournaments after the regular-season concludes. Some of the players have expressed interest in playing for the men’s team in the summer.

“I’m pretty hopeful that this upcoming weekend,” Hendrix said, “that we’ve gone into practice, we’ve corrected those areas they hadn’t learned yet and got it right so that coming this weekend they’ll be able to go out there and play the game and get the win that they deserve.”

The Gents have plans to create a high school girls program as well, which competes in the fall.

acolbert@aspentimes.com