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Warrior ruggers win Southern California high school championship

The Fallbrook Rugby Club high school boys team has won the Southern California Youth Rugby League championship.

The Warriors won all five of their regular-season games and had earned byes in the first two playoff rounds and a home match in the Southern California championship. The championship match was supposed to be played Feb. 11, but the club season began Feb. 7 and the three other teams that earned playoff berths all conceded their matches, eventually leading to second-seeded Loyola High School of Los Angeles conceding to top-seeded Fallbrook. Fallbrook head coach Mike Majewski was notified on

Feb. 3 that the playoffs had been canceled and that Fallbrook was declared the champion.

“We would definitely have rather earned it than have had it handed to us like this,” Majewski said.

“We still felt that we earned it,” Majewski said. “But it would have been nice for our opponent to come up.”

During the regular season, Fallbrook defeated all three other teams that earned playoff berths. The Warriors began the season with a 53-0 win at home Dec. 12 against the Cathedral Catholic team, which was given the third seed, and Fallbrook prevailed 58-0 Dec. 19 at home against the San Pasqual squad which was seeded fourth. On Jan. 9 the Warriors hosted Loyola, who as the L.A. Cougars during the 2009 club season defeated Fallbrook in a qualifying tournament match. Fallbrook’s

24-5 win over Loyola included a 24-0 lead before the Cougars scored late in the second half.

The Warriors traveled to Cathedral for a Jan. 15 contest. “A very interesting match. We learned a lot about our team that night,” Majewski said.

Most of what was learned involved how well the reserves played and how well the normal starters could overcome a deficit. Two days later Fallbrook played in a PAC-10 Tournament match at UCLA which involved college coaches watching the high school players.

“We felt as coaches that was a much more important opportunity for the boys,” Majewski said. “We wanted to keep our first team fresh for the UCLA match.”

Majewski started his second team against the Dons. “Cathedral came out strong like we knew they would,” he said.

Cathedral scored a try, Fallbrook answered with its own try, and Cathedral scored again to take a 12-5 lead which ended up being the halftime score. Majewski put in his first-string team to start the second half. “It took all of 45 seconds for us to score, and then that set the pace for the rest of the night,” he said.

Fallbrook outscored Cathedral 22-0 in the second half to take a 27-12 victory.

“It’s good to know that against a strong team like Cathedral we can rely on our second-stringers,” Majewski said.

Cathedral Catholic’s football team won the 2009 CIF Division III football championship, which was played a day before the first rugby match between Fallbrook and Cathedral. Thus the football players on Cathedral’s rugby squad didn’t play in the December 12 game. “It’s a lot different team than we played in the opening match,” Majewski said. “Their quality of play was superior to six weeks ago.”

The Jan. 17 match against the Lamorinda high school team from the East Bay was played at 9:00 a.m. on the UCLA field. “Our first 15 were fresh,” Majewski said. “They weren’t all beat up from playing a full match.”

The match result didn’t count in any league or tournament standings. “We went into that match with two goals, first and foremost for our boys to get noticed by the college recruiters,” Majewski said.

The second goal was to get the Fallbrook players to compete at Lamorinda’s level. “A team like that will exploit your weaknesses,” Majewski said. “You always want a challenge.”

There is no actual Lamorinda High School. Lamorinda is a Contra Costa County region encompassing Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. The Lamorinda rugby field is at Campolindo High School in Moraga, and Lamorinda players also attend Acalanes High School in Lafayette, Miramonte High School in Orinda, and Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek.

“We had a good showing,” Majewski said.

Lamorinda scored the first try and then made a two-point conversion. Fallbrook also scored a first-half try but missed the conversion, and Lamorinda led 7-5 at halftime.

Late in the second half Lamorinda scored another try and conversion to win the match by a 14-5 score. “We had so many penalties against us in the second half, but we still hung in there,” Majewski said.

In order to allow more teams to participate at the PAC-10 Tournament, the teams played 20-minute halves. Approximately 500 spectators watched the game, and half a dozen college coaches known to the Fallbrook coaching staff were present.

Since rugby is a club rather than an NCAA sport, coaches are allowed to express interest publicly in high school seniors.

UCLA coach Scott Stewart, whose current roster includes 2009 Fallbrook High School graduate Taylor Bashara, expressed interest in current Fallbrook seniors Kyle Volan and John Hayden. “We may be UCLA’s farm team down here,” Majewski said. “It really legitimizes what we’re trying to do for Fallbrook rugby.”

After the loss to Lamorinda, Majewski stressed reducing the number of penalties committed. In Fallbrook’s Jan. 23 home match against St. Augustine, the Warriors committed only three penalties in the first half and had fewer than five second-half penalties despite the use of second-string players. “Our goal going into the St. Augustine game was to play penalty-free,” Majewski said. “We were able to get all those penalties cleaned up.”

Fallbrook led 54-0 at halftime, and even with junior varsity players joining the varsity reserves the Warriors concluded the game with a 78-0 win. Hayden scored six of the team’s twelve tries. A new kicking tee arrived prior to the St. Augustine match, and kicker Trevor Krok made nine of the twelve conversion attempts.

In addition to giving Fallbrook a final 5-0 league record, the score against St. Augustine gave Fallbrook a 239-17 scoring advantage for the regular season. Torrey Pines did not field a varsity team but played at the junior varsity level and was the only team to defeat Fallbrook’s JV squad, which finished the season with a 4-1-1 record.

Rugby is not a CIF sport, but the Fallbrook Rugby Club has a high school boys team which plays both in a high school league and in under-19 club tournament competition. While last year’s high school and club seasons overlapped, this year the high school league was played during the CIF Winter sports season while the club competition will run through Spring.

In 2009 the high school league consisted of the Southern Division and the Northern Division with the two division champions playing for the Southern California Youth Rugby League championship. This year the Southern California league consisted of three divisions; Fallbrook was in the Central Division along with San Pasqual, Cathedral, and St. Augustine.

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