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Young Coventry rugby team in mix for playoffs

4/24/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

COVENTRY — According to head coach Randy Humbert, this year’s Coventry rugby team features “a good mix of size and speed.”

“We have Caleb Connor and Skyler Cain at props — both are well over 200 pounds and mobile for their size,” he stated. “Third row players Nate Gissinger, Dustin Ward and Andrew Wilborn are in their second year and do a great job of getting around the field for us. Mark Keith and Mike Vannorstran have made great strides anchoring our back line, complemented by new backs Kyle Jones, Darian Crisp, Tremayne Collins, Nick Kaminsky and Billie Bronner.”

Other players on this year’s roster include John Critchfield, Logan Collmar, Justin Thompson, Paul Hays and Paul Hahn.

“All of them are doing a great job when called upon,” the coach said.

The team’s captain is junior hooker Jerry Ward.

“Jerry is in his third year,” Humbert said. “He is very passionate about rugby. He does a great job — on the field and off — of keeping the players informed and together.”

In 2013, Coventry fielded a very young roster and finished with a 2-8 record.

“Last year’s team was entirely freshmen, with the exception of two players, one of which we lost due to an ankle injury, after the third match,” the coach said. “This year, we have 18 players out — about half of which are in their second year. The rest are all first-year players, mostly freshmen with a junior and senior sprinkled in. The senior we have is a first-year player (Billy Bronner).”

Through April 22, Coventry already had surpassed its win total of a year ago by compiling a 3-1 record.

“We are playing pretty good, actually,” Humbert said. “I really didn’t know what to expect based on our youth and the division we’re in, but we are currently in contention for one of two spots in the playoff round. Right now, we are in second place.”

Next up for the team is a trip to the Akron Rugby Football Club’s field to take on Copley High School April 27 at 2 p.m. and Humbert said every match is extremely important to Coventry’s playoff chances.

“There is a long way to go and we have a lot to learn as we go, but this team can make a run,” he said. “Two teams from our division get to make the playoffs, and we’re heavily involved in trying to get there.”

Humbert is in his sixth season as head coach of the rugby team.

“I have two coaches that have been with the team for six years also, Tom Juszli and Tom Yeager,” he said. “And joining the staff this year are coach Jim Kaminsky and Coventry alumni players Tim Jackson and Alex Morrow.”

One of the coaching staff’s top goals going forward, Humbert said, is to add to the team’s roster by increasing awareness of the sport.

“I would like to see more players out, but as a coach you are dealing with the fear of the unknown from prospective players, and fear of being injured because of no pads in a contact sport,” he said. “I can only say that you can learn to play, and in the six years the club has been playing, we have only had two injuries resulting in lost time. It is a pretty safe tackle sport.”

Humbert said the hope also is to expand the program’s presence in the school district.

“We are looking at perhaps starting something at the middle school level,” he said. “There are tag, flag and tackle leagues we can get involved in. Hopefully, we can get that started in the very near future.”

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