Mustangs U18’s down Fallbrook, look now towards Concord de la Salle
By Tim Pickwell
In between Good Friday and Easter Sunday a trinity of Cathedral Catholic boys led the way, and the result was heavenly for the Carmel Valley-based San Diego Mustangs U18 Rugby Club.
The undefeated Mustangs were down early, 5-0, on Saturday, March 30, to the nationally-ranked Fallbrook Warriors, when Cathedral Catholic Senior Drew Gaffney went on a brutal run up the middle. Classmate Alec Barton took his pitch as Gaffney was tackled about 20 meters out. Barton sprinted ahead and almost made it to the try zone. But, as he was tackled, Barton flipped the ball to hustling fellow Don Joey Kuperman, who split the posts for the score.
The Mustangs then went on a rampage, opening a 29-5 halftime lead, and finishing out the win, 44-10, even though they played the final minutes down two men thanks to a red and a yellow card.
Players and coaches have high hopes for the Mustang squad which has been invited to play in the prestigious National Invitational Championship in Elkhart, Indiana in May. The Mustangs are currently ranked 23rd in the nation by Rugby Magazine. Saturday’s win over 24th ranked Fallbrook can only help the Club’s standing.
The Mustangs combine the best of the Torrey Pines Varsity Rugby team, and the Cathedral Catholic Varsity squad, along with a handful of seasoned players from La Jolla, Westview and La Costa Canyon high schools. Torrey Pines and Cathedral finished 1-2 in the County during the recently concluded high school rugby season, so their combined talents are potent. Of the six tries against Fallbrook, half were scored by Torrey Pines students (Chase Pickwell, Billy Maggs, Jacob Neeley), and half by Cathedral boys (Kuperman, Mac Entwistle, Gaffney).
“We didn’t really know how to measure ourselves, winning out first few games against the lower half of our league,” said Head Coach Matty Sandoval. “But this was a quality win over a quality opponent. Fallbrook isn’t nationally ranked for no reason. We set the bar high for the boys, and they exceeded it.”
But, being invited to the NIC in Indiana is half the battle. Because teams have to plan and prepare for the travel, the selection committee has to make its best guess in February as to which will be the nation’s top high school and club teams in May. The Mustangs are in the arena, but they will have to show well the rest of the season to be slotted into the championship bracket in Elkhart.
A significant opportunity to impress comes this Friday when De La Salle of Concord, Calif., visits for a match Friday, April 5, at 5 p.m. at UC San Diego’s Warren West Field. Concord de la Salle is arguably the most highly regarded high school football program in America. The Spartan football team once had a 12-year, 151 game winning streak, and ESPN and USA awarded them national championships seven times. In recent years, they have won the CIF Football “Open Division” State Championship twice, including finishing 14-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps in 2010.
The Spartan Rugby program employs many of the same athletes as its football team, and has enjoyed some success, including an 8-2-1 record this season. One loss was a squeaker to Dixon, a top California program. The other loss? To Cathedral Catholic in a “friendly” back in February.