It was do or die for the HSU rugby team heading into their game against the Sonoma State Seawolves on Saturday. If they won, playoffs would await. If they lose, their goal of winning a national championship in their division would have to wait another season.
The excitement and anticipation was in the air before the game as the coaches and players fired themselves up in the pregame huddle and stressed what was on the line and the need for teamwork and execution. It was also the final home game for the seniors, which added to the motivation for the team to deliver and send the Lumberjacks to the playoffs.
And deliver they did, the HSU rugby team dominated Sonoma State by a score of 73-22, with the game never seeming to be in doubt at any point.
“Now we’re playing a lot of clean ball and keeping possession,” senior Andre Hascall said. “And just not doing stupid things.”
It only took one minute and 17 seconds for the Jacks to get their first try on the board, as Thomas Bradley punched the ball into the end zone to get the Jacks an early 5-0 lead.
Sonoma State followed that up with a try of their own to tie the score 5-5, but three minutes later HSU scored with Jose Rodriguez getting the try for the Jacks and giving HSU the lead at 10-5.
Following that score, Sonoma State would not have a sniff of the lead again as HSU would score 22 unanswered points to make the score 27-5. Since the 5-5 tie early in the game, the Jacks would outscore Sonoma State 27-10 down the stretch in the first half to make the halftime score 32-15.
If you thought the Jacks did well in the first half, they would do even better in the second half. They dominated the Seawolves by outscoring them in the second half 42-7 cementing their place in the postseason and making the seniors last memory of playing at home a good one.
HSU player Nako Te’l would add two tries to the scoreboard during the game as well as Jose Rodriguez and Cameron Whitney both tapping the ball into the end zone twice for the Lumberjacks.
The celebration on the bench began well before the final whistle sounded, as both the players and coaches knew what they were able to accomplish in their biggest game of the year so far. But it was about more than the game itself as the coaches celebrated the seniors who were playing the last home game on the North Coast.
HSU coach Vince Celotto said it brings him a lot of joy to have players that come to the rugby program and continue to to stay.
“We want to make them happy,” Celotto said. “They deserve to be on the pitch and have their friends watch them play.”
The Jacks have one more league game and then it’s off to Monmouth, Oregon on March 30 to start their quest for the ultimate goal, which is the national championship.
HSU coach Greg Pargee said he finds it it incredible to watch the players grow as student-athletes.
“I’m passionate about the sport, but I’m equally as passionate watching these guys grow as young men,” Pargee said.