October 11, 2014 v. Erie Rugby Club

Author: Bill Marnell -

The Highlanders opened the home portion of the 2014 season with a bang, hosting the also undefeated Erie All Blacks Club. The Highlanders were coming off dominating road victories against Pitt City, Akron and South Pittsburgh, while Erie remained mostly at home defeating the same Clubs in a much less dominating fashion. Nonetheless, both Clubs brought in a 3 – 0 records and the winner would solely hold first place atop the Eastern Division. The Highlanders have not beat Erie in many years and would need to finally hurdle them if they wanted a chance to play in Midwest Playoffs.

On a beautiful and cool autumn morning, the Highlanders kicked off to a tough Erie squad that traveled very well for this big time game. Shortly after the kickoff, the Highlanders were able to gain possession and set up talented and hard nosed Winger, Brian Barnett with his first try of the day and second on his rookie season. The score set the precedent early to the stunned Erie Club, that this was not the same old Highlander squad. Barnett was able to run the ball out wide past the Erie defender and set the ball down in the try zone to the far sideline. It set up a tough kick for Powers, and he wasn’t able to convert it.

Following the open score, the game tightened up quite a bit. Erie plays staunch defense and was all over rookie Scrumhalf Zach Powell all day. Powell who injured himself late in the off-season was making his first start for the Highlanders in a key position against a tough team. It was easy to say he filled in for the missing Kyle “Calico” Hilsey quite well. After several minutes of back and forth rugby, and a near miss at a try for Erie, the powerful and veteran Highlander scrum was able to drive the ball near the Erie goal line and set up Number 8 David Banta for his third try of the season. After the Powers conversion, the Highlanders had a 12 – 0 lead over Erie.

Erie would not be denied however. A few minutes after Pittsburgh’s second score they were able to quickly move the ball down field and touch the ball down directly below the goal post. After the conversion, they cut the lead to 12 – 7 before the Highlanders could answer right back. Brian Barnett was able to get around the Erie defense once again, shortly before half to match the Erie try. With the score, the Highlanders were able to take a 17 – 7 lead into the half.

After the half, the resilient Erie squad was able to cut the lead down once again, placing down a try to the outside. After the missed conversion, the score read Highlanders 17 – Erie 12. Once again the Highlanders were able to storm back and get another try from powerful Prop Jarred Frawley who leads the team with 6 tries on the season. After the Powers conversion, the Highlanders enjoyed a 12 point lead once again. However, similar to last season’s game in Pittsburgh versus Erie, the All Blacks answered right back with a try off a misplay in deep in Highlander territory. The Highlander lead was once again cut down to 7 with plenty of time remaining.

But unlike the 2013 season, the Highlanders possessed the skill to put Erie away for good. For the next 25 minutes, the Highlanders played ball control offense and slowly ate up the remaining time. They were able to maintain possession and threaten several times to score, however the Erie defense continued to bend, but not break. Finally with time ticking away, rookie Scrumhalf Zach Powell was able to side step an Erie defender and place down a huge try for the Highlanders, the first of his senior career. The try put the Highlanders up by 14 after the Powers conversion and sucked all of the air from the Erie sails. To close out the game, the Highlanders were able to add two Scott Powers penalty kicks to continue and pull the game out of Erie’s reach. The final read: Highlanders 37 – Erie 17.

Highlander Line vs. Erie Rugby Club:

  1. Jarred Frawley (Grove City)
  2. Arley Cone (Cal U)
  3. Abe Cone (Cal U)
  4. Andrew Chapman
  5. Jeff Muha
  6. David Gregg (IUP)
  7. Zack Kochin (Cal U)
  8. David Banta (Cal U)
  9. Zach Powell (Cal U)
  10. Thanner Hestdalen (S.U.N.Y Cortland)
  11. Brian Barnett (Cal U)
  12. Neil Reynolds (UPJ)
  13. Tyree Massie (Cal U)
  14. Patrick Dobbins (UPJ)
  15. Scott Powers (UPJ)
  16. Bill Marnell (Cal U)
  17. Timmy Chapman
  18. Brandon Benvenuti
  19. Eric Zyski (Cal U)
  20. Will Foran (Carnegie Mellon)
  21. Kevin Dell
  22. Brandon Sampson (Slippery Rock)
  23. Aamir Ali