Senior Adonis Johnson lowers his shoulder and running through the last line of defense in the Redwood Bowl. | Photo by Matt Shiffler

Tigers zero, Jacks rugby heroes

Jacks triumph in the Redwood Bowl
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Jacks triumph in the Redwood Bowl

The Jacks dominated scrum set pieces winning all seven keeping the ball in possession for its high-powered offense. Restarting play using the scrum, the forwards packed closely, head down, and engaged the other team, gaining the ability to swing the ball out to a potential line breaker. A series of excellent passes and jukes found HSU with a 2-on-1 advantage looking to score.

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Adonis Johnson picks up a loose ball resulting in a turnover for the Tigers. | Photo by Matt Shiffler

Senior number 14 Adonis Johnson caught the high pass and secured the ball. Johnson didn’t pass and instead just kept running full speed ahead, straight for the UOP player and try line.

”I saw him and I was thinking, I’m going to run him over,” Johnson said. ”And I did but somehow he kicked the ball out of my hand as he fell backward.”

The offense was led by Johnson, who would score 12 total points in the 38-0 shutout against the University of the Pacific Tigers in the Redwood Bowl on Feb. 2.

The Jacks played an effective first half, putting 19 points on the scoreboard. These points came from field awareness and handling the ball quickly off of passes. This edge helped momentum and was able to showcase the speed of center all-league selection number 15 Dalvin Jamal-Milton. Jamal-Milton was on full display as he caught a pass, made one Tiger miss breaking their line, and rocketed down the near sideline. With two Tigers to beat, Jamal-Milton threw a forearm that stopped the incoming tackler in his tracks. The second Tiger was too late or didn’t want to get the same outcome and Jamal-Milton tiptoed past the line for his first try of the game.

“Our team is aggressive this year,” coach Greg Pargee said. “We play as a team and we are looking 100% better than we were this time last year.”

The UOP squad had size but couldn’t keep pace with the Jacks in the second half. During loose play, HSU was able to steal nine of the Tigers possessions. Many of these came deep down the pitch, forcing the Tigers to lose clock and energy with zero points in return. When the Tigers finally broke out with big runs past the Jack’s line Jamal-Milton was there cleaning up in the open field, with chase-down tackles and monster hits. Number 12 of the visiting Tigers found space to run outside multiple times and you could see him scanning, trying to find where Jamal-Milton was flying in from.

The Jacks offense closed out the game with another 19 points. Try scorers for the Jacks were Adonis Johnson (2), Cameron Arnold (2), Dalvin Jamal-Milton (1), and Cameron Whitney (1).

“We were able to see mistakes early and coaching was great,” senior center and rugby club vice president Andre Hascall said. “Big positive is that 38-0, got to love that.”

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The referee calls out instructions during a scrum between HSU and UOP. | Photo by Matt Shiffler

It’s early in the season but the Jacks can’t help but be excited with returning players like Dalvin, Adonis, flanker Thomas Bradley, Cameron Whitney, and two props Colin Coletto and Joseph Johnson. To add more depth to the already impressive roster three former HSU football players, Tumanako Te’i, Jason Uipi, and Latufeao Kolopeaua, took their tackling from the gridiron to the pitch.

National championship aspirations are on everyone’s mind from both players and coaching staff. Last year the Jacks were able to reach the regional championships but fell to Mira Costa. The Jacks are celebrating 45 years of rugby in the redwoods and coach Vince Celotto played for the Jacks in the 1980s when they competed against top schools and old division-I rivals.

When asked about the possibility of HSU turning club rugby into one of its official sports to fill the void created by the loss of the football program.

“We’re like the kids in an amicable divorce. Community and administration are at odds right now and we’re just trying to make it clear to everyone that we want to win a national championship this year,” Celotto said. “We understand the commitment and our trip is to make these guys the best rugby players they can be, some people want to see us succeed and others want to see us fail.”

Come support Jacks rugby as they face the Otters of Monterey Bay this weekend at 1 p.m. on the College Creek Field.

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