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Underclassmen playing key roles for Coventry rugby team

4/11/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

COVENTRY — After losing nine players to graduation following the 2012 season, head coach Randy Humbert said this year’s Coventry High School rugby team will be looking to reload as a talented group of young players gain experience.

“We hope to finish .500 and be a strong playoff team,” he said, “so that we can move forward into next season with loftier expectations.”

Humbert said the 2012 squad was heavy in experience.

“Last year’s team had nine seniors and was a very competitive team. We finished the season at 4-6, losing those six matches by a total of 14 points,” he said. “[We were] eliminated from play in the second round of the playoffs in a very close game vs. Hudson — losing with 30 seconds remaining.”

This year, however, Coventry is looking for a number of younger players to step up.

“This year’s team is a really young [squad featuring] last year’s freshmen, now sophomores, Don Bradley, Trevor Watkins, Luke Kidd, Keenan Davis and Sy Rexrode,” he said. “This year’s freshman class of Mike Vannorstram, Dallas Cain, Mark Keith, Dustin Ward, John Critchfield, Nate Gissinger and Andrew Wilborn show great promise.”

According to Humbert, third-year player senior Alex Morrow is a player who is looked to as a leader for the squad.

“He is leading by example, both with his play and his tutelage of the younger players,” the coach said.

Sophomore Jerry Ward also is expected to provide leadership for Coventry this season.

“People might be surprised by Jerry Ward this year. He is not your prototypical athlete. However, he is very passionate about rugby, and it shows in his play and leadership,” Humbert said. “He has really become a student of the game and a leader on the team both on and off the field.”

This year’s roster is rounded out with first-year players seniors Lucas Garrett and Mayschon Davis, second-year player junior Mike Simone and first-year player sophomore Skyler Cain.

“We only have 18 boys, and 15 play at one time, so that leaves only three substitutes,” Humbert said. “So all the boys have to step up to meet the challenge each week.”

Through the first three matches of the season, Coventry had a 1-2 record. But in their most recent match, Coventry defeated Avon High School 41-10 April 7.

Humbert said he likes the improvement he has seen from his players during the early part of the season.

“At this point with our team, they are all playing extremely well,” he said. “Rugby is a game you have to play to learn because of the pace and constant decision-making offensively and defensively. I think that we have a number of players that could be standouts and could make the U16 and U19 select side teams (all stars). It is difficult to select who might be a standout at this point, as they all are playing like standouts.”

This is Humbert’s fifth season as the rugby coach.

“This is our fifth year of competition in the Northeast Ohio Rugby League, which plays as a part of the state organization, Rugby Ohio, which, in turn, is directed by U.S.A. Rugby, the national governing body,” he said. “Tom Juszli and Tom Yeager assist and have also been there since the beginning. These men are also very passionate about this sport, and it shows in the play of the young men they coach.”

Next up for Coventry is a home match against Midpark High School April 14 at 1 p.m. Coventry’s home matches are held at Logan Field, 2701 N. Turkeyfoot Road.

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