On a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, the Highlanders took on cross town rivals, South Pittsburgh to close out the fall portion of their season. The Highlanders, at 7 – 2, were still holding out the hope for a playoff berth over the division leading Cleveland Rovers. In order to have a chance, they would need to beat the Hooligans and secure a bonus point by scoring more than 4 tries in the win. The Highlanders fielded a very light side for the first time several years, only dressing 18 players. The bench had only 1 forward reserve and 2 backline reserves. With the heat and a few Highlander forwards battling illness, this game would surely test the resiliency of the club.
The game kicked off at 1:00 pm and both teams battled back in forth for several minutes until center, and club captain, Neil Reynolds, was able to set down a try at the 11 minute mark of the game. Scrumhalf Scott Powers was able to add the conversion and put the Highlanders up. Less than 10 minutes later, however, former Highlander and now current Hooligan captain, Casey Austin, was able to touch down his first try of the day. Highlander Hooker Jose Colon, earned a yellow card on the play for a late tackle and the Highlanders found themselves down a man with the game tied after the Hooligan conversion. Things seemed to get worse when Highlander rookie winger Ryan Muraco went down with an injury at the 27 minute mark, but both the Highlanders and Hooligans were able to score during the card period and end the half at a 12 – 12 tie.
The next 10 minutes the Highlander backline was able to assert their dominance over South Pittsburgh by scoring three tries. Daniel Glasstetter, a winger from Geneva, was able to set down a try at the 45 minute mark, followed by outside center Patrick Dobbins’ score and Neil Reynolds second score of the day. Powers was able to convert one score and the Highlanders found themselves leading 29 – 12 at the 53 minute mark. Casey Austin was able to take advantage of a drained Highlander pack with two additional second half tries, but the Hooligans couldn’t match the scoring prowess of the Highlanders.
Even after Patrick Dobbins went down with an injury and winger Michael Boyd earned a yellow card, the Highlanders were able to pour on the scoring down two players in the backline. Flyhalf Tyree Massie was able to set down his second and third tries of the day, Glasstetter was able to score his second and Highlander fullback Zach Powell was able to get into the action with his third try of the season. Even the tired and depleted Highlander forwards were able to get into the action with reserve prop Dan Andrus scoring his first career try and hooker Jose Colon redeeming his earlier card with a try of his own. At the end of 80 minutes, the Highlanders pounded South Pittsburgh to the tune of 65 – 26. With the win, the Highlanders improved to 8 – 2 on the season and tied with the Cleveland Rovers at the top of the division. Unfortunately, the Rovers were able to secure one additional bonus point over than the Highlanders which afforded them the opportunity to move on to the Midwest Playoffs and the Highlanders season to come to an end.
Highlander First 15: 1 – Marnell, 2 – Colon, 3 – Cone, 4 – Sampson, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – David, 8 – Banta, 9 – Powers, 10 – Massie, 11 – Boyd, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Muraco, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Andrus, 20 – Glasstetter, 21 – Elias
Substitutions: Glasstetter for Muraco @ 27 (IJ) Andrus for Sampson @ 40 minutes (TC), Elias for Reynolds @ 65 minutes (TC)
Tries: Reynolds (8, 9), Massie (3, 4, 5), Glasstetter (2, 3), Dobbins (7), Andrus (1), Powell (3), Colon (1)
Conversions: Powers (3/9), Powell (2/2)
Cards: Colon (Yellow), Boyd (Yellow)