High school rugby makes local debut
Jim Walker pulled out of the grip of the Douglas County defender and stepped right into rugby history.
Walker crossed the try line, touched the ball to the ground and scored the first try for the Mount Sopris Regulators. That’s the first try ever for the Carbondale-based high school rugby team.
Little matter than the Regulators trailed by 27 points at the time. Rather, the curiously attentive home crowd let out a huge cheer Saturday afternoon to acknowledge Walker’s historic score in the first high school rugby game ever played in the area.
His try (the equivalent to a touchdown in football) gave the Regulators five points and finished the scoring in a respectable 27-5 loss to the visitors from Douglas County, a club team with a long history and a deep roster.
“This was as nervous as I’ve ever been for a game … even playoff games,” a happy and tired Walker said after the sun-soaked debut of high school rugby.
“It was a lot better than I expected though,” Walker added of the team’s first full game. “I thought we would be really bad!”
Instead, Walker and his teammates accepted congratulations all around – from their own fans, from the Douglas County players and coaches and from the assembled Gentlemen of Aspen rugby players.
The Mount Sopris Regulators, a blend of Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs high school rugby players, kicked off the sport at the prep level Saturday as part of a rugby tripleheader in Carbondale. The Aspen B-side defeated the Air Force Academy in the first game.
Then the Regulators played Douglas County.
And finally, the Aspen A-side – the five-time defending national champions – defeated Philadelphia-Whitmarsh in a USA Rugby Premier League game.
“The (high school) game was a lot cleaner that I thought it would be,” said Regulators coach Tory Jensen, himself a former rugby standout who now also heads the Roaring Fork football program.
He said he wasn’t sure how the high school players would respond to their first full-side rugby experience.
“We stayed pretty organized. But we broke down some … strategically,” Jensen said, pointing to a pair of early tries by Douglas County. Both came on weak-side counter action when the Regulators were taken by surprise.
“But both sides had a chance to make a run and do some things.”
“It’s fun to get a whole side out there,” said Jake “Frankie” DeWolfe of the Regulators. He said it’s much easier to envision the complete game when both teams have the full complement of 15 players each.
DeWolfe said he was encouraged by the team’s opening performance.
“It was really organized … it was fun,” DeWolfe added.
He said he enjoyed the camaraderie of the friendly competition, and the encouragement from the Douglas County team.
“That’s the sport of rugby,” DeWolfe said as he shared pizza with his teammates and the Douglas County visitors after Saturday’s game on the RFHS practice field.
“We wanted to help them out and help the game of rugby,” said Douglas County coach John Suyat, who brought his team to Carbondale to kick off the Regulators’ season.
Suyat, a former player who returned to coach the team, said his squad includes players from Douglas County and Ponderosa high schools.
“This team (Mount Sopris Marauders) is very comparable to the other teams we’ve played,” Suyat said of his team, now 3-2 on the season.
Last weekend, the Douglas County team won 43-12. And the team’s challenge was even tougher on Saturday, Suyat said.
The Regulators included a variety of players, including Evan Quint, Garret Jammaron, David Crowly, Tim Markoya, Mike Buster, Dustin Caughern, Jon Madl, Ross Velasquez, Ryan Donnelly, Lee Maggert, Zack Brewer, Kaid Harris, Brian Hall, Kellen Whitworth, Dylan Henderson and Jake Motsenbocher.
The local prep ruggers will return to the pitch next weekend when they host Highlands Ranch. The game will be played in Aspen next Saturday as part of another tripleheader involving the Gentlemen of Aspen rugby club.
“Rugby is a huge fraternity … it’s a great team-bonding game,” Jensen said.
“I had a great experience with it and it’s great to see some of these guys getting a chance to play.”
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