The Columbia-based Rocky Gorge Rugby Football Club will take the first step in defending its Division II Rugby national championship Saturday, April 20th at 2 p.m. at the East Columbia Library field.
Rocky Gorge will face the Brandywine Rugby Club of West Grove, Pa., in the first round of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) playoffs. Rocky Gorge earned the top seed in the tournament by going 7-1 in the regular season.
Games will be played all day at the East Columbia Library fields, as Rocky Gorge’s 15th annual college tournament – the Gorge Cup – will commence at 10 a.m. on Saturday as well. Salisbury, Mary Washington, Towson, Frostburg, Montgomery College, Niagara, American, George Mason, Loyola, and George Washington will participate in the tournament.
The centerpiece of the day will be the Rocky Gorge playoff game. The majority of Rocky Gorge’s roster is made up of players from Howard County. Local universities such as Salisbury, Maryland Baltimore County, Towson, Frostburg and St. Mary’s are represented on the club, which practices in Maryland City and plays its matches in Howard County.
In preparation for the MARFU playoffs, Rocky Gorge scheduled a series of matches against Division I opponents throughout the spring.
In the first Division I match of the spring, Rocky Gorge traveled to play the Raleigh Vipers in Raleigh, N.C., on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. A hard-fought game saw Rocky Gorge prevail, 24-22. With tries by Will Miller (Reservoir High School), Kevin Jackson, Jamel Murray (Glenelg High School/HCC), and Chase Lawrence, Rocky Gorge was able to secure the victory.
A week later, Rocky Gorge executed a structured game plan against NOVA Rugby Club at the main football field at Howard High School. By utilizing fast rucks and hard hits, Rocky Gorge shut out NOVA, 20-0. NOVA was under pressure for most of the game as the defense did not give up a try.
Dustin Meehan, Will Miller, and Derek Chell (Mt. Hebron High School) scored tries for Rocky Gorge, and Billy Trentzsch capped off the victory with a penalty kick in the 55th minute.
The fourth-seeded Maryland Exiles came to town March 30. The game featured a close first half before Rocky Gorge made the right adjustments in the second half to win, 42-19.
With tries by Billy Trentzsch, Jonathan Biermann (Hammond High School), Josh Cherriman and a penalty kick by Andrew Kendall, Rocky Gorge was up 21-19 early in the second half. After the Exiles incurred two yellow cards, Rocky Gorge scored 21 unanswered points by Josh Brown (Long Reach High School), Will Miller, and Nick Sylor to secure the victory.
Rocky Gorge faced its toughest test of the spring against the second-seeded Schuylkill River Exiles on April 6. Rocky Gorge roared out to a 19-0 lead at halftime with tries by Cheruka Weerakoon and Kevin Jackson. But penalties and tough play by Schuylkill River proved to be too much for Rocky Gorge as Schuylkill River came back to win, 33-26.
In the last game before the postseason, Rocky Gorge rebounded and handled the Media Rugby Football Club of Bridgeport, Pa., 74-25.
Head coach Chuck Moore (Mt. Hebron High School) has stressed discipline, team play and focus as the club prepares for the MARFU playoffs. If Rocky Gorge advances, the semifinal and final will be held in Pittsburgh April 27-28.
“We are just trying to take our momentum from last year and turn it into another championship season,” team captain Matt Carroll said.
“We are trying to get better, try to peak at the right time. Every game is another note, every game is another step. You try to build to that crescendo at the end of the season where you play your best rugby.”
Rocky Gorge hopes that peak will come in the national championship game in Denver.
Note: Rocky Gorge is always in search for competitive players, those who are new and the experienced. If you want more information regarding the club or the upcoming games, please visit http://www.rockygorgerugby.com.