MATCH REPORT: October 14th, 2017 v. South Pittsburgh (D3)
After 3 weeks without a game, the Highlanders were eager to get back on the field on this past Saturday to take on crosstown foes, the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. After a bye and then a forfeit from Pitt City Rugby, the boys were ready to roll again. It was yet another hot and sunny day of October rugby, with the team now accepting the fact fall weather will probably arrive just in time for playoffs.
The Highlanders gave up a penalty right off the first kick-off and it was South Pitt who was on the attack early. The defense held, and the Highlanders were quickly able to march down the field, utilizing their space out wide and strong running by wingers Nate Hoellman and Michael Zapf. Outside center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) was the first to touch down. His try was quickly followed up by another try to physical flanker, Michael Boyd (Cal U). Unfortunately, after this try the game was delayed for a while as some emergency repairs were made to one of the goal posts.
The scoring continued, with Reynolds and Boyd both doting down again within the next few minutes, and scrum half Zach Powell (Cal U) converting these tries. It was the momentum created by the Highlander forwards that were driving them down the field, with strong runs from hooker Nick Eritz (Cal U) and prop Jeff Muha. With the score at 26-0 after 13 minutes, it looked like it could be a really long day for South Pittsburgh. However, they fought back hard and played disciplined rugby. The Highlanders started to let themselves down with a number of penalties and errors that kept the door open for South Pitt. Fortunately, flanker Eric David was able to touch down one last time before the half.
South Pittsburgh came out strong after the half, and just like the game earlier in the season, were the first ones to put points on the board in the second half. The score was closed to 33-7. After a few physical confrontations, Boyd was able to dot down again for the Highlanders. Following that, the Highlanders were able to go to their bench and like previous weeks, utilize the fresh legs of John Shearer (Cal U) and Blayze Richardson (Cal U) who had immediate impacts with ball in hand and in support.
As the heat started to take its toll and the fresh legs came on, the Highlanders kept up the momentum. They started to capitalize on space out wide and with strong support play, young winger Pat McAuliffe (Duquesne) touched down. The Highlanders didn’t let up; with 3 more tries in the remaining ten minutes resulting in a final score of 69-7.
The Highlanders now look forward to the last game in the division this season, against Greensburg, before moving into playoff games. After a close game against Greensburg earlier in the season, the Highlanders have a point to prove this weekend and will look to dominate for the full 80 minutes.
First XV: 1 – Andrus; 2- Ertiz; 3 – Muha; 4 – Chapman; 5 – Sparkman; 6 – Boyd; 7 – David; 8 – Benvenuti; 9 – Powell; 10 – Zangaro; 11 – Zapf; 12 – Reynolds; 13 – Dobbins; 14 – Hoellman; 15 – Battistone
Reserves: 16 – Marnell; 17 – Shearer; 18 – Reaghard; 19 – Fazekas; 20 – McAuliffe; 21 – Hebert; 22 – Richardson; 23 – Powers
Substitutions: 52’ – Marnell for Andrus (TC), Shearer for Chapman; 58’ – Richardson for Battistone (TC), McAuliffe for Hoellman (TC); 67’ – Powers for Powell (TC), Hebert for Zapf (TC)
Referee: David Kuhn (ARURS)
Tries: Boyd (2, 3, 4, 5); David (2); Dobbins (4); McAullife (1); Reynolds (4, 5, 6); Zangaro (2)
Conversions: Powell (6/8); Powers (1/3)
Man of the Match: Mike Boyd, Flanker (1)
MATCH REPORT: September 23, 2017 @ Greensburg Maulers
This past weekend, the Highlanders headed to Greensburg, PA to take on the Greensburg Maulers. After high temperatures the Saturday before, everyone was hoping for some more September-like weather. Instead, both teams were confronted with blue skies and temperatures in the mid-80s, setting up testing conditions. Coming off a large win over South Pittsburgh, the Highlanders were confident they’d be off to a quick start and be able to dominate throughout.
However, things didn’t quite go as planned. Although dominating possession in the first 10 minutes, the Highlanders were unable to penetrate the Maulers’ defense. There were some strong carriers from the likes of Michael Boyd (Cal U) in the forwards and Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) in the backs, but there were too many handling errors and lateral running on a narrow pitch to keep the pressure on. The Maulers defended stoutly and brought the ball back down the field strongly. The game see-sawed throughout the first half, with both teams unable to penetrate the opposition’s defensive line, however, in the 32nd minute it was the Maulers who struck first after sustained pressure to take a 7 – 0 lead.
This try seemed to be the kick in the teeth that the Highlanders needed. They marched back down the field with a renewed emphasis on straight running and maintaining possession. Andrew Chapman touched down first and replacement fullback Scott Powers (UPJ) soon after. At the stroke of half time, the Highlanders held on to a tight 10-7 lead.
With stronger, straight carriers from the likes of Neil Reynolds (UPJ) and Nick Ertiz (Cal U), the Highlanders scored twice more within the first 9 minutes of the second half. The Highlanders then started to go to their depth off the bench and were able to bring on impact substitutes Dan Andrus, Tyler Sparkman and Blayze Richardson (Cal U). Sparkman was able to make a solid impact, dotting down for two tries of his own. The final score, 39-7 to the Highlanders.
It was a determined effort by the Maulers and a hard fought win for the Highlanders. The Highlanders were happy to have Nate Hoellman, wing, back from injury, and were excited to be able to give scrumhalf Jurnee Wilson (Cal U) his first start. Journeyman Bill Marnell (Cal U) made an impact as always coming off the bench and he helped to continue the dominance of the scrum that was led by props Jeff Muha and Brendan Crifaci (SRU).
The Highlanders have a bye week before starting the second half of the season where they play Pitt City, South Pitt and Greensburg again. After that, the winner of the “South” division will play the winner of the “North” division (Cleveland Crusaders, Cleveland Rovers, Presque Isle, Akron) to see who will go through to playoffs.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci; 2 – Eritz; 3 – Muha; 4 – Chapman; 5 – Benvenuti; 6 – Reaghard; 7 – David; 8 – Boyd; 9 – Wilson; 10 – Zangaro; 11 – Zapf; 12 – Reynolds; 13 – Dobbins; 14 – Hoellman; 15 – Glasstetter
Reserves: 16 – Andrus; 17 – Marnell; 18 – Sparkman; 19 – Shearer; 20 – Powers; 21 – Richardson; 22 – Hebert; 23 – Fazekas
Substitutions: 33’ – Powers for Glasstetter (IJ); 46’ – Sparkman for Benvenuti (TC), Andrus for Crifaci (TC); 55’ – Richardson for Zapf (TC); 65’ – Shearer for Chapman (TC), Hebert for Hoellman (TC); 68’ – Marnell for Eritz (TC); 76’ – Fazekas for Reaghard (TC)
Referee: Alex Gralia (ARURS)
Tries: Chapman (1, 2); Dobbins (3); Powers (1, 2); Sparkman (1, 2)
Conversions: Powers (2/7)
Man of the Match: Devin Zangaro (1)
MATCH REPORT: September 16, 2017 v. South Pittsburgh Hooligans
On Saturday the Highlanders travelled to McDonald, PA to take on cross-town rivals, the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. The Highlanders have had the number on South Pitt over the last few seasons and they wanted to continue that trend and build on the solid win last week against Pitt City. It was a hotter September Saturday than expected, with the temperatures dipping into the low 80’s. With a number of players away for the Highlanders, it was a good opportunity for some younger players to get some more time and to use some of our depth off the bench.
The Highlanders struck early in the first half and didn’t look back. With strong go forward ball from the forwards, the Highlander backs were able to make inroads out wide and burst through. Strong running from backs Neil Reynolds (UPJ) and Michael Zapf made dents in the Hooligan’s defense and determined support play from Zach Powell (Cal) led to a number of first half tries. Tries were also shared around forwards Michael Boyd (Cal) and Brandon Benvenuti, taking the half-time score to 43-0.
The heat was starting to take its effect at the end of the first half, and the Highlanders were hoping to continue their momentum into the second half. Instead, it was the Hooligans that came out fighting with a number of strong carriers (and weak tackling by the Highlanders) to score the first try, 43-7. Fortunately, that was all the room that was given to them. Powell and Reynolds both struck again after that to stretch the score to 57-7. From there, the Highlander substitution bench was emptied with veterans John Shearer (Cal), Brandon Sampson (SRU) and Kevin Dell all getting on the field to show the young guys that they still have it. Also coming off the bench was rookie wing Zach Hebert, who scored on his first touch of the ball from a nice inside pass from flyhalf Devin Zangaro (IUP). In the end, the Highlanders emerged with another impressive 81-7 victory.
In the forwards, Michael Boyd, Tyler Sparkman and Eric David showed impressive stamina to keep fighting away on both offense and defense all day in the heat. The front row of Rob Greg, Nick Eritz (Cal) and Jeff Muha dominated the scrum and had the Hooligans on the back foot throughout the game. The midfield of Reynolds and Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) ran strongly as per usual, and the addition of Blayze Richardson (Cal) in the second half added even more power.
The Highlanders will look to tighten things up even further this week when they travel to Mt. Pleasant to take on the Greensburg Maulers (0 – 2).
First XV: 1 – Gregg; 2 – Eritz; 3 – Muha; 4 – Chapman; 5 – Sparkman; 6 – Boyd; 7 – David; 8 – Benvenuti; 9 – Powell; 10 – Zangaro; 11 – Zapf; 12 – Reynolds; 13 – Dobbins; 14 – McAuliffe; 15 – Glasstetter
Reserves: 16 – Andrus; 17 – Reaghard; 18 – Fazekas; 19 – Sheraer; 20 – Hebert; 21 – Richardson; 22 – Dell; 23 – Samspson
Substitutions: 48’ Andrus for Gregg (TC); 49’ – Reaghard for Benvenuti (TC); 52’ – Shearer for Chapman (TC); 58’ – Richardson for Glasstetter (TC); 65’ – Sampson for Eritz (TC); 66’ – Herbert for McAuliffe (TC); 74’ – Fazekas for Sparkman (TC), Dell for Zapf (TC)
Referee: Alex Gralia (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (4); Boyd (1); Dell (1); Glasstetter (1); Hebert (1); Muha (4); Powell (2, 3, 4, 5); Reynolds (3, 4); Zapf (1)
Conversions: Powell (8/13)
Man of the Match: Zach Powell, Scrumhalf (1)
MATCH REPORT: September 9, 2017 v. Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3)
After going undefeated in league play last season, but failing to get through the first round of the Midwest playoffs, the Highlanders looked to reload quickly in the all fall league schedule of 2017. The first opponent for the new look club was a familiar foe, crosstown rival Pittsburgh Rugby Club.
The Highlanders had many returning veterans available for this match, but looked to show off some new blood they added this 2017 season. The match began with some back in forth rugby between the two sides, but after the dust settled, the Highlanders scored often to cruise to a 90 – 0 win over Pittsburgh, Nine Highlander players scored a total of fourteen tries against the young Pittsburgh side. Leading the scoring was veteran forwards Brandon Benvenuti and Jeff Muha, each with three tries. Club President Neil Reynolds (UPJ), who plays Inside Center, was able to dot down two scores while Eric David, Patrick Dobbins (UPJ), Zach Powell (Cal U), Blayze Richardson (Cal U), Tyler Sparkman and Devin Zangaro (IUP) were able to each score a try themselves.
This was the first league match in the black and red for a number of new players including Tyler Sparkman, who got the start at lock, Blayze Richardson who came into the game at Number 8 and Jurnee Wilson (Cal U) who came into the game at wing. Also making their Highlander debuts were young outside back Patrick MacAuliffe from Duquesne University and Bill Battistone, getting the start at fullback, from the Iowa City Ducks.
In the end, there were several great performances from several Highlanders. Standout games came from Jeff Muha, who was awarded Man of the Match, Brandon Benvenuti, and Scott Powers who was able to add sixteen points via conversions, including several challenging kicks from the fringes of the field. Loose Forward Mike Boyd (Cal U) didn’t end up on the score sheet, but contributed to several tries and played excellent in his first start at Number 8. Devin Zangaro transitioned from outside back last season to Flyhalf this season and also had a standout game.
With the win, the Highlanders will travel to McDonald, PA this weekend to take on rival South Pittsburgh Hooligans. The Hooligans will enter the game 1 – 0 as well after defeating Greensburg by a score of 38 – 13 on the opening weekend. The Hooligans will look to end a long losing streak to the Highlanders; the Highlanders have not lost to the Hooligans in league play since April 2014.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci; 2 – Eritz; 3 – Muha; 4 – Chapman; 5 – Sparkman; 6 – Reaghard; 7 – David; 8 – Boyd; 9 – Powell; 10 – Zangaro; 11 – Zapf; 12 – Reynolds; 13 – Dobbins; 14 – Powers; 15 – Battistone
Reserves: 16 – Andrus; 17 – Marnell; 18 – Benvenuti; 19 – Richardson; 20 – Vesley; 21 – Glasstetter; 22 – Wilson; 23 – McAuliffe
Substitutions: 40’ – Benvenuti for Reaghard (TC); 50’ – Andrus for Crifaci (TC); 60’ – Richardson for Chapman (TC), Glasstetter for Battistone; 65’ – Marnell for Eritz (TC), Wilson for Powers (TC), MacAuiliffe for Zapf (TC); 68’ – Vesley for Powell (TC)
Referee: Mark Seaton (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (1, 2, 3); David (1); Dobbins (1); Muha (1, 2, 3); Powell (1); Reynolds (1, 2); Richardson (1); Sparkman (1); Zangaro (1)
Conversions: Powell (0/1), Powers (8/10), Zangaro (2/3)
Man of the Match: Jeff Muha, Prop (1)
MATCH REPORT: April 22, 2017 v. Cleveland Crusaders D3
The conclusion of the 2016 – 2017 league schedule could have been an important game if not for the Highlanders win last week in Cleveland. The Crusaders played great all season and always seemed to hang around the Highlanders (11-0) with their own impressive 9-2 record. However, with the Highlanders win against the Rovers the week previous created a 9 league point difference that could not be made up in the final game remaining, therefore eliminating the playoff implications from this match.
The Highlanders struggled to decide whether to rest some key starters before the playoffs or to continue the momentum they’ve built up over the course of the season. They also had several key and dedicated players to consider who’ve been around all year, but only enjoyed limited starts or time of the bench. At the end of the day, the Highlanders decided to play an A side mix of both veterans and younger players against an excellent Crusaders D3 squad.
The weather was cool and overcast. The Highlanders kicked off to the Crusaders and were quickly able to gain some possession deep in Crusader territory. After several minutes, the Crusaders were awarded a lineout near their own 10 meter line. After winning the lineout and dealing with pressure from the Highlanders, the Crusader scrumhalf made a hasty pass to his backline for a clearing kick. The pass was intercepted however by a charging Rennie who was easily able to take just a few steps and touch the ball down for his tenth try of the season. Scott Powers (UPJ), playing scrumhalf today in place of the resting Zach Powell (Cal U) was able to make the conversion and the Highlanders were out to a quick 7 – 0 lead.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Highlanders were once again able to grab possession and get the ball brilliantly out to their talented young wing, Michael Zapf. Zapf easily made up for an earlier knock that would have likely turned into a score by flying through the Crusader defense and into the corner for his first try of the day. Powers was unable to convert the tough corner kick, but the Highlanders extended their lead. A few moments later, lock Brandon Benvenuti was able to power through the defense for his team leading 11th try of the season near the same corner where Zapf scored a few minutes earlier. This time Powers was able to convert the corner kick and the lead was extended to 19.
After the try, Thanner Hestdalen (SUNY Cortland) went down with an apparent ACL injury just after the 20 minute mark. The injury was unfortunate for Thanner who’d been working hard to return to the Highlanders from injuries in the spring of 2015. Thanner had been playing brilliantly at flyhalf and was a key depth player for the Highlanders for the upcoming playoff run. His injury, however, ended his season and brought in normal starting fly and club captain Tyree Massie (Cal U) off the bench. Forwards captain Sammy Zimmerman (IUP) was able to make a great play to continue the scoring for the Highlanders after taking a pick ‘n go near the try line and powering through the Cleveland defense. It was Sammy’s first score of the season and was easily converted by Powers. Finally, before the half, Zapf was able to touch down his second try of the day to give the Highlanders a 31 – 0 lead at the half.
The Highlanders used the lead to bring in two new wings, Mike Walton (Cal U) and Jack Haney (IUP), both of whom are excellent defenders. The club also gave veteran prop Abe Cone (Cal U) a rest while getting powerful young forward Rob Gregg some work in the second half. After the kickoff, the Highlanders missed an opportunity to score when Rennie ran out of the back of the try zone, missing his second try of the day. The possession switched over to the Crusaders who utilized penalty kicks to get the ball deep into Highlander territory and eventually a score. During their charge down the field, Jeff Muha who made his first start since the spring of 2016, came off the field for Nick Eritz (Cal U) and veteran forward Andrew Chapman was able to get on after the unconverted Crusader score.
The Highlanders would give up no further points, however. While getting forwards John Shearer (Cal U) and Jon Fazekas (W&J) so needed work in the pack, they were able to get additional tries from Neil Reynolds (UPJ), Devin Zangaro (IUP) and finally Mike Walton, scoring his first try in senior rugby. Powers was able to convert all of the tries in the second half and even prop Brendan Crifaci was able to get in the scoring act by converting the final try from Walton at the 80 minute mark. At the final whistle, the Highlanders dominated the Crusaders to a final score of 52 – 5 to clinch the undefeated season.
With the win, the Highlanders improved to 12 – 0, a perfect season earning bonus points in each game. They will enter the Midwest Playoffs as the number 2 seed in the east and travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Crusaders dropped to 9-3, second place in the division.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Muha, 3 – Ab. Cone, 4 – Benvenuti, 5 – Wingert, 6 – Reaghard, 7 – Zimmerman, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powers, 10 – Hestdalen, 11 – Hoellman, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – R. Gregg, 17 – Ertiz, 18 – Fazekas, 19 – Shearer, 20 – Massie, 21 – Haney, 22 – Walton, 23 – A. Chapman
Substitutions: 40’ – R. Gregg for Ab. Cone (TC), Haney for Hoellman (TC), Walton for Zapf (TC); 53’ – Ertiz for Muha (IJ); 56’ – A. Chapman for Zimmerman (TC); 60’ – Shearer for Rennie (IJ), Fazekas for Wingert (TC)
Referee: David Kuhn (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (11), Rennie (10), Reynolds (8), Walton (1), Zangaro (9), Zapf (3,4), Zimmerman (1)
Conversions: Crifaci, (1/1), Powers (5/7)
Man of the Match: Scott Powers, Scrumhalf (1)
MATCH REPORT: April 15, 2017 @ Cleveland Rovers
This past weekend, the Highlanders (10 – 0) traveled to a much improved this spring, Cleveland Rovers. Although only sporting a 6 – 5 record, the Rovers are a powerhouse club with more than 60 players, many of whom have high level experience. Throughout their history, the club has been hard to beat, especially at home. In fact, it was at the Rover’s home pitch, Impett Park on the west side of Cleveland, where the Highlanders saw their worst defeat in over 3 years, a 46 – 10 loss to open the season in September 2015. That season the Highlanders were able split the series with the Rovers, winning at home, but ultimately losing the division to them by one league point. This current season, the Highlanders beat the Rovers 46 – 12 at home and now look to clinch the division and a playoff berth with a win against them today.
The Highlanders traveled with just 23 players on the damp Easter Saturday. They faced a lot of rain traveling from Pittsburgh; however the skies cleared shortly before kickoff, but with the sun came the humidity. Once the ball was in play, the Highlanders were able to get and maintain possession almost immediately, although the club was prone to mistakes in the first several minutes of action. Scrumhalf Zach Powell (Cal U) and Fullback Devin Zangaro (IUP) were able to provide a calming influence on the team and limit those mistakes from turning into scores for the Rovers. After lock Andrew Chapman was held up in the try zone, Zangaro was able to make a fantastic play off the boot to open the scoring for the Highlanders. Scott Powers (UPJ) was able to convert the kick and the Highlanders were off to a lead.
Shortly thereafter, the Rovers were able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown outside and score a penalty try, but Powell, playing fantastic all day, was able to answer quickly and restore the Highlander lead to 5 after Powers missed the ensuing conversion. Ball possession during the entire first half was dominated by the Highlanders mainly due to their dominant performances in set pieces. The Highlander scrum manhandled the Rover front eight and the Highlanders lineouts were impressive, especially defensively. However, all of that possession didn’t lead to nearly as many points as it should have, with the Highlanders making several mistakes near the Rover try line. Finally, shortly before half, talented center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) was able to make a great individual effort to score his seventh try of the season and after the Powers conversion, the Highlanders had a comfortable 19 – 7 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Highlanders would deal with much more adversity than the first. The Ohio Rugby Union referee seemed desperate to keep the Ohio side in the game via phantom penalties or missed calls that even had the Rovers perplexed on the field. The Highlander persevered even as tries from Abe Cone (Cal U) and Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) were called back. On the other hand, the referee seemed to miss an obvious forward pass and clear knock on that resulted in Rover tries. At the 50 minute mark, Jeff Muha was able to hit Brandon Benvenuti with a great lineout throw and Benvenuti was able to free himself and cut through the flat-footed Rover defense for his ninth try of the year. Later in the second half, with the Rovers clawing back into the game, captain and Flyhalf Tyree Massie (Cal U) was able to dot down his sixth try of the season to seal the win for the Highlanders. The Rovers were able to add another try very late to cut the lead to only 7, however at the final whistle, the Highlanders were able to defeat the very tough and talented Cleveland Rovers by a score of 31 – 24.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Eritz, 3 – A. Cone 4 – Benvenuti, 23 – A. Chapman, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – David, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 5 – Fazekas, 16 – Marnell, 17 – Muha, 18 – Reaghard , 19 – Vesely, 20 – Hestdalen, 21 – Walton, 22 – Hoellman
Substitutions: 55’ – Muha for Crifaci (TC); 60’ – Reaghard for Benvenuti (TC); 65’ – Hoellman for Zapf (TC); 75’ – Marnell for Eritz (TC), Walton for Powers (TC), Hestdalen for Massie (TC)
Referee: Jared Crist (ORURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (9), Massie (6), Powell (6), Reynolds (7), Zangaro (8)
Conversions: Powers (3/5)
Man of the Match: Zach Powell, Scrumhalf (3)
MATCH REPORT: April 8, 2017 v. Akron Rugby Club
Following the bye week, the Highlanders (9 – 0) would once again enjoy home cooking as they played host to an always tough Akron Rugby Football Club coming in with a record of 2 – 6 – 1. In their previous meeting back in October, the Highlanders beat Akron handily by a score of 43 – 21. Akron would be looking to exact some revenge on Pittsburgh and build on some positive performances earlier this spring.
After freezing rain and snow the day before, Saturday brought clear, sunny skies and much warmer temperatures. At kickoff, the air was a comfortable 58 degrees. The Highlanders kicked off to Akron and were able to regain possession of the ball quickly. They maintained control and moved the ball down the field to set up a scrum at the Akron 5-meter line. This allowed lock Brandon Bevenuti, playing number 8 today for Michael Rennie, to pick the ball and open up the scoring with a few nice moves off the scrum. Winger Scott Powers (UPJ) was able to nail the conversion and the Highlanders started with a bang to take a 7 – 0 lead. After some more ball possession and excellent defense, Captain Tyree Massie (Cal) was able to set down his fourth try of the season. With the Powers conversion, the lead was extended to 14.
The Highlanders were able to continue possessing the ball throughout the first half. Although mistakes ended some productive phases that would have led to additional scoring opportunities, the Highlanders were still able to add tries from Devin Zangaro (IUP) and another from Massie before the half. With a Scott Powers’ conversion, the score at half stood 26 – 0.
For the second half, the Highlanders planned to utilize their deep and talented bench to overwhelm Akron much like they did to Greensburg RFC two weeks prior. New comer Eric Giles (S.U.N.Y. Cortland) came in for Marnell (Cal) at the half and played very well for the club. He was followed by a number of talented forwards including Jeff Muha, Lance Reaghard and David Gregg (IUP). These fresh legs assisted in setting up more tries, predominately from the Highlander back line. Shortly after the half began, Benvenuti was able to dot down his second try of the day off a long run, but from that point on, it was all Highlander backs. At 55 minutes, Zangaro got his second try of the day, his seventh for the season. Powers would nail his fifth conversion before heading to the bench for rookie Nate Hoellman. Speaking of rookies, new club player Anthony Viviano (Pittsburg) was able to touch down his first try as a Highlander at the 65 minute mark after coming in for Michael Zapf shortly after half. Viviano is a veteran of the Kansas City Blues organization, but recently moved to Pittsburgh for work.
Veteran centers Neil Reynolds and Patrick Dobbins, both from University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, were each able to add tries during the second half before the scoring was finally closed out with a try from rookie Nate Hoellman. Benvenuti was able to add a conversion to bring the scoring to an end. The final read Highlanders 62 – Akron RFC 0.
With the victory, the Highlanders improve to 10 – 0 with two games remaining against both tough Cleveland sides. This weekend, the Highlanders will travel to the west side of the city to take on a reloaded Cleveland Rovers Side. Although only sporting a 6-5 record, the Rovers have reloaded for the spring season to return to the powerhouse they were in years past. If the Highlanders are able to secure 2 league points in the match, they will officially clinch the division and their second playoff berth in three years. For Akron’s part, they will host South Pittsburgh on April 15th.
First XV: 1 – Ab. Cone, 2 – Eritz, 3 – R. Gregg 4 – Marnell, 23 – A. Chapman, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – David, 8 – Benvenuti, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 5 – Giles, 16 – Morris, 17 – Muha, 18 – Reaghard , 19 – D. Gregg, 20 – Vesely, 21 – Viviano, 22 – Hoellman
Substitutions: 40’ – Giles for Marnell (TC); 46’ – Muha for Eritz (TC), Viviano for Zapf (TC); 60’ – Reaghard for Zimmerman (TC); 65’ – Vesley for Powell (TC), D. Gregg for Chapman (TC), Hoellman for Powers (TC); 70’ – Morris for R. Gregg (TC)
Referee: Mark Seaton (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (7, 8), Dobbins (7), Hoellman (1), Massie (4, 5), Reynolds (6), Viviano (1), Zangaro (6,7)
Conversions: Benvenuti (1/1), Powers (5/8), Zangaro (0/1)
Man of the Match: To be determined.
MATCH REPORT: March 25, 2017 v. Greensburg Maulers
After a long, four month break from league competition, the Highlanders were eager to back onto the pitch in order to continue their dominant stretch of not losing a league match since early October 2015. After going 8 – 0 in the fall portion of the season, the Highlanders began offseason training in early February in order to prepare for a long spring season that will hopefully take them through the month of May and well into the USAR playoffs. Their first test would be against their brother-side, the Greensburg Maulers coming in with a record of 2 – 5 – 1.
The weather was quite nice for a mid-March rugby match. The temperature was in the high 60’s with the sun peaking from the clouds every so often. The conditions were ideal for a spring rugby match. The Highlanders kicked off to the Maulers and were quickly able to gain possession. They marched down the field and deep into Mauler territory, but were unable to convert their hard work into scoring. Possession after possession ended with a misplay that resulted in the game remaining scoreless for the first 20 minutes even though the Highlanders possessed the ball in the Greensburg half almost the entire time. Finally, Flyhalf Tyree Massie (Cal) was able to touch the ball down after a lineout steal by Eric David. Winger Scott Powers (UPJ) was able to nail the conversion to put the Highlanders up 7 – 0. After the ensuing kickoff, the Highlanders were once again deep in Greensburg territory for several minutes without a score. A scare came when the Mauler Outside Center picked off a pass at the 2 meter line and looked to take it all the way back for a Greensburg score. Powers was able to fly back from a touch position and bring down the speedy Mualer around mid-field, a fantastic defensive player. Later, with the ball back in hand and nearing the try-zone, scrumhalf Zach Powell (Cal) wasn’t able to quite beat the Greensburg wing to the corner, but made brilliant pass back inside to a charging Bill Marnell (Cal) for a score. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, the Greensburg touch called the play back, stating the Powell stepped out near the 5 meter line. Powell was able to get on the board just a few minutes later by dotting down his fifth try of the season, giving the Highlanders a 12 – 0 lead at the half.
After the half, the Highlanders made several key substitutions. Both second rows were replaced, as well as Powell at Scrumhalf. Lock Brandon Benvenuti, in for Marnell, was able to make an immediate impact on the scoring sheet by dotting down a try at the 45 minute mark. Center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) was also able to come alive in the second half dotting down two tries and playing well to further the Highlanders lead. With more players coming off the bench, the Highlander’s depth was able to overwhelm the tired Maulers. Benvenuti touched down his second try of the day, and Number 8 Michael Rennie was able to touch down his ninth of the season set up by rookie Jack Haney’s (IUP) long run. Finally, to end the day, Lock Andrew Chapman, on again due to Jeff Muha’s front row blood injury, was able to touch down Pittsburgh’s final try of the day. After all was said and done, the Highlanders erupted for 6 second half tries and crusaded to a 42 – 0 victory over Greensburg.
With the victory, the Highlanders improve to 9 – 0 and head into a bye week on April 1. Afterwards, the will stay home and host Akron (2 – 5 – 1). Greensburg will host South Pittsburgh at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Eritz, 3 – R. Gregg 4 – Marnell, 23 – A. Chapman, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – David, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Haney, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 5 – Benvenuti, 16 – Muha, 17 – Wingert, 18 – Reaghard , 19 – Vesely, 20 – Hestdalen, 21 – Walton, 22 – Hoellman
Substitutions: 40’ – Benvenuti for Marnell (TC), Wingert for A. Chapman (TC), Vesely for Powell (TC); 55’ – Muha for R. Gregg (IJ); 60’ – Reaghard for Zimmerman (TC), Hestdalen for Massie (TC), 65’ – A. Chapman for Muha (BL), Walton for Haney (TC), 70’ – Hoellman for Powers (TC), 75’ – Muha for A. Chapman (BL)
Referee: Judd Worrall (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (6, 7), A. Chapman (4), Massie (3), Powell (5), Rennie (9), Reynolds (4, 5)
Conversions: Benvenuti (0/1), Powers (1/6), Reynolds (0/1)
Man of the Match: To be determined.
MATCH REPORT: November 12, 2016 @ Pittsburgh Rugby Club
After a much needed bye week due to USAR’s Rugby Weekend in Chicago, the Highlanders (7-0) would travel to North Huntingdon, PA to take on the Pittsburgh Rugby Club (2-5) in a rematch of the week two game where the Highlanders defeated Pitt City by a score of 53 – 19. Since then, the Highlander continued to roll to a perfect record while Pitt City lost another 4 matches while stealing a couple of wins during the weekends when their Division 2 side didn’t have competition. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh Rugby Club, USA Rugby would correct a poorly worded competition regulation on Thursday, November 10 which officially made players who’ve participated 50% or more of a higher division’s league matches now ineligible to play in a club’s lower division games. This forced Pitt City president Ryan King to contact the Highlanders prior to kick off to forfeit the league match due to needing to play a number of higher division players in the match. The Highlanders accepted the forfeit and agreed to play their D2/D3 split squad in a friendly test match.
The Highlanders were able to use this valuable opportunity to start a number of newer club members who’ve worked very hard this season, but may not have been able to see a great deal of playing time during league competition. Among them were Nick Munk, a player new to rugby who’d be making his first career start at hooker and lock Jon Fazekas (W&J), a collegiate veteran who joined the team over the summer. They would be joining Lance Reaghard and Mike Zapf, both of whom have earned some first side playing time, but could benefit from additional experience. The clubs agreed to play three, 30 minute periods and allow for rolling substitutions throughout the game.
The first period was dominated by the Highlanders even while playing several new forwards. Number 8 Michael Rennie was able to open up the scoring for the Highlanders and the conversion was nailed by Scott Powers (UPJ), playing wing today. Shortly thereafter, flyhalf and captain Tyree Massie (Cal U) was able to intercept a pass in the City backline and touch the ball down for his second try of the season. After the conversion by Powers, the Highlanders led 14 – 0 at the conclusion of a very successful first period.
The second period saw Pittsburgh increasing the number of higher division players into the game, particularly in the backline. These additions would test the Highlander backs, especially after stout defender Neil Reynolds (UPJ) had to leave the game early in the first period due to taking a nasty cut on the eye. Devin Zangaro (IUP) was once again able to show his versatility by moving from wing to outside center for the duration of the game. He’s played a number of different positions very well this season including wing, fullback and flyhalf.
After the Highlanders were able to initially get on the board with a brilliant try from rookie winger Mike Zapf to start the period, Pitt City was able to touch down their first try of the game after spending several minutes attempting to crack the Highlander defense from the 5 meter line. It took Pitt City several phases and attempts, but after some brief miscommunication on a lineout, City was able to set down a converted try. Rennie was able to respond quickly for the Highlanders when he touched down his second try of the day, but Prop Brendan Crifaci (SRU) was unable to convert. That score was answered with two consecutive converted tries from Pitt city to shrink the Highlander lead to 5 points, but shortly before the end of the second period, Zach Powell (Cal U) was able to touch down a try, but he missed the following conversion. The score after two periods of play read Highlanders 31 – Pittsburgh Rugby Club 21.
The final period of play saw the momentum swing solely back on the side of the Highlanders, much to the frustration of several Division 2 City players who took some early on penalties. Solid tackling, hard running and forced timely turnovers seemed to surprise the higher level players who felt as though they’d overpower the Division 3 Highlanders. Rookie Nick Munk was able to open the scoring in the third period with his first career try following a series of tough “pick ‘n goes” ran by the Highlander forwards. City was able to answer with an unconverted try of their own, but the next 20 minutes were spent with wave after wave of Pittsburgh attack only to be thwarted and well defended by the Highlanders.
Finally, with little time remaining, Scott Powers was able to score a try after some brilliant ball movement from the Highlander backline. Zach Powell, now at scrumhalf along with Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) and Devin Zangaro were able to move the ball down field and make timely offloads to spring Powers for the score. The try totally deflated Pittsburgh Rugby Club; which was evident on the ensuing kickoff when Patrick Dobbins was able to take the ball wide and score to conclude the game. The Highlanders were able to defeat the Pittsburgh Rugby Club’s split D2/D3 squad by a final of 46 – 26, however a 28 – 0 win via forfeit was registered for the league standings.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Munk, 3 – Ab. Cone, 4 – Fazekas, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Reaghard, 7 – Boyd, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Marnell, 17 – Andrus, 18 – T. Chapman, 19 – Shearer, 21 – Glasstetter, 22 – Zapf, 23 – A.Chapman
Substitutions: Rolling substitutions, no tracking.
Referee: Judd Worrall (ARURS)
Tries: Dobbins (6), Massie (2), Munk (1), Powell (4), Powers (5), Rennie (7, 8), Zapf (2)
Conversions: Crifaci (0/1), Massie (0/1), Powell (0/1), Powers (3/5)
Man of the Match: Tyree Massie, Flyhalf (1)
With the win, the Highlanders have finished the fall season a perfect 8 – 0. With the wins and the accompanying bonus points for more than 4 tries scored in each of their games, they’ve earned 40 points and not only sit atop the Midwest Eastern – East division, but second place in the entire Midwest East. Fort Wayne sits atop of them in the standings due to a better point differential during league play.
The Highlanders have finished their home at home series with both South Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Rugby Club, but will still need to play the other four opponents in their division one additional time in the spring. They will host Greensburg (2-5-1) on March 25th and Akron (3-3-1) on April 8th to start the spring portion before traveling to the Cleveland Rovers (3-5) on April 15th. The Highlanders were close out the season by hosting the second place Cleveland Crusaders (6-2) on April 22nd. Playoffs begin the following weekend, on April 29th at the number 1 seed’s home pitch.
MATCH REPORT: October 29, 2016 @ South Pittsburgh Hooligans
On a sunny, but windy day in late October the Highlanders traveled to McDonald, PA to take on their rivals: the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. After defeating the Hooligans in the opening weekend of the season by a score of 42 – 26, the Highlanders continued to roll to a 6 – 0 record. The Hooligans have had an up and down season, losing to the Crusaders and Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3) while scoring nice wins against Greensburg, Akron and the Cleveland Rovers. The Highlanders expected a tough match, regardless of records, as South Pittsburgh was sure to throw everything they have at home against their bitter crosstown rivals.
Shortly after the opening kickoff, the Hooligans were able to take advantage of a defensive lapse and score quickly, within the first 2 minutes. The Highlanders were able to match the try just a few moments later when winger Scott Powers (UPJ) was sprung for a try out wide. The score was tied after a missed conversion, but South Pittsburgh was able to take the lead back again quickly when they scored a converted try again about 15 minutes into the half. The Highlanders, playing sloppy, managed to keep pace with the try when center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) broke through the line for a long score, taking the Hooligan fullback for a ride with him. The conversion was missed and after another Hooligan try near the end of the half, the Highlanders found themselves trailing 19 – 10 half way through the game.
During the break, the Highlanders were able to regroup and make some adjustments which included bringing on Highlander veteran Bill Marnell (Cal U) for Timmy Chapman who started the game in place of Brandon Benvenuti, the talented lock who was out this game for a wedding. The second half would start out slow, but eventually the Highlanders were able to battle deep into Hooligan territory. After several defensive stands from South Pittsburgh, coupled with some Highlander miscues, the Highlanders were able to dominate play with forwards ball which allowed them to eventually spring winger Scott Powers into the try zone for his second score of the day. This would draw the Highlanders closer, trailing now only by 4. A few minutes later, Highlander rookie Devin Zangaro (IUP) was able to put down his fifth try of the season. Zangaro seems to get on the score sheet and play well every week, no matter where he is on the field. Today, he would start at wing as opposed to fullback where he’s played the past several weeks. Later in the game, when captain and flyhalf Tyree Massie (Cal U) would go down with an ankle injury, Zangaro would step into the flyhalf role and play great there as well. The try at approximately the 60 minute mark, was converted by Powers and would finally put the Highlanders in front 22 – 19 with about 20 minutes remaining.
South Pittsburgh would continue to threaten and the game remained very close; each side trading solid scoring chances and making good defensive plays to keep the game from tipping in favor of one side or the other. With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Highlanders were able to win a key lineout and get the ball out to the backs. There, Zangaro was able to spring Bill Marnell for a long run through South Pittsburgh defensive backline. With only the fullback to beat, Marnell was able to get off a nice offload to the charging Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) to score his fifth try of the season. Zach Powell (Cal U) was able to convert the try and extend the Highlanders lead to 10 with time running out on the Hooligans. With no time remaining, South Pittsburgh was able to score for the first time in the second half to draw the game closer and secure themselves two bonus points in the losing effort. The final score read Highlanders 29 – South Pittsburgh 24.
With the win, the Highlanders have now swept the season series with the Hooligans for the past three seasons and have not lost to them in league play since April 2014. They also improve to 7 – 0 and take a commanding lead in the Midwest Eastern – East division with 35 points. After this week’s bye, they will face Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3) in White Oak on Saturday, November 12 to close out the fall portion of the season.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – T. Chapman, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – Boyd, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Marnell, 17 – Munk, 18 – Fazekas, 19 – Reaghard, 20 – Shearer, 21 – Sparkman, 22 – Glasstetter, 23 – Sabatini
Substitutions: Marnell for T. Chapman @ 40’ (TC), Reaghard for Andrus @ 55’ (IJ), Glasstetter for Massie @ 65’ (IJ)
Referee: John Hogan (ARURS)
Tries: Dobbins (5), Powers (3, 4), Reynolds (3), Zangaro (5)
Conversions: Powers (2/5)
Cards: Scott Powers (Yellow)
Man of the Match: Bill Marnell, Forward (1)
MATCH REPORT: October 22, 2016 @ Cleveland Crusaders (D3)
On a cold, damp day in late October the undefeated Highlanders (5 – 0) would travel to eastern Cleveland to take on the second place Crusaders (4 -1). This match was effectively for first place in the division, even though the Highlanders would likely remain on top of the standings even with a loss on the day. With that being said, the Highlanders were looking to maintain their momentum and build a cushion in the division standings at the half way point of the season.
Due to some injuries and personal events, the Highlanders traveled light to the game, missing 3 key starters. Mike Boyd (Cal U), the team’s starting flanker, and Zach Powell (Cal U), the team’s scrumhalf, were both out of town for weddings. Talented flanker Eric David was also missing from the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury from training just two days before the game. With the players missing, rookie Lance Reaghard, a converted football player from powerhouse West Jefferson Hills High School made his first start as a Highlander at flanker and depth players Bill Marnell (Cal U), Sam Zimmerman (IUP) and David Vesely all got starts rather than coming off the bench for the Highlanders.
The opening kickoff went to the Highlanders and was fielded by rookie winger Michael Zapf. He cut through the Crusader defense before being taken down to the ground. The lack of support from the Highlanders gave the Crusaders a penalty for not releasing, but it would be there last such penalty all day. The Highlanders dominated the ruck on offense and defense. Pittsburgh was able to secure possession all day with close and effective support while stealing way possession with quick and crafty counter-rucking. The Crusaders were able to get on the board first with a break – away try, but the Highlanders responded quickly with four first half tries.
First was from talented rookie fullback Devin Zangaro (IUP) who scored his fourth try as a Highlander. He was followed by winger Michael Zapf who scored his first career try after only playing rugby for a little over 6 weeks. The Highlander forwards dominated possession throughout the first half with sturdy set pieces and effective rucks. After a long run from outside center Patrick Dobbins (UPJ), the forwards were able to pound in a try from lock Andrew Chapman and close out the half with a long try from shifty lock Brandon Benvenuti. After missing the first three conversion attempts, winger Scott Powers (UPJ) was able to make the last before the half. The score read: Highlanders 22 – Crusaders 10.
The Highlander forwards continued to dominate set pieces in the second half. After a great play by rookie flanker Lance Reaghard to pressure the Crusader scrumhalf in his defensive try – zone, the Highlanders were awarded a 5 meter scrum. Off the impressive scrum win, Highlander number 8 Michael Rennie was able to touch down his 6th try of the season to lead the team. Following the Powers conversion, the Highlander lead grew to 29 – 10 with a little more than 20 minutes left to play.
The Crusaders would not go quietly, however. They’ve been a tough and fundamentally sound team all season, not losing since week one against their crosstown rival the Cleveland Rovers. They were able to make some half time adjustments and pressure the Highlanders a bit more during the course of the second half. Having the luxury of a deep home bench also helped against some growingly tired Highlanders. Pittsburgh would need to weather some bad luck to get this win.
First, inside center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) would be shown a yellow card after skirmish erupted when Reynolds took exception to one Crusader backliner’s repeated cheap shots against Highlanders. Down a man, the Highlanders would give up a try to the Crusaders to draw the score closer. With about 15 minutes remaining and Reynolds still in the bin, rookie winger Michael Zapf would get red carded and removed from the game for a unintentional, but dangerous high tackle. This put the Highlanders down by two men with plenty of time remaining on the clock. The Crusaders could smell blood and continually pressured the shorthanded Highlander defense.
Getting Reynolds out of the bin with about 10 minutes remaining was a jolt of life to the Highlander defense. With Reynolds back in the game, Flyhalf and team captain Tyree Massie was able to make a great play to time a pass and take the ball back for a try and steal the Crusader momentum and effectively put the game out of reach. The try was his first of the season and could not have come at a more important time for the Club. Although the Crusaders were able to score and convert one last try at the final whistle, the game was no longer in doubt. The final score read: Highlanders 36 – Crusaders 22.
This upcoming weekend, the Highlanders will take their undefeated record to McDonald, PA to play rival South Pittsburgh (3 – 3). The Highlanders won the first exchange with South Pittsburgh by a score of 42 – 26 on September 10th. The Highlanders fully expect the Hooligans to come out hard as this rivalry has grown bitter over the past few seasons. Kickoff is expected at 1:00pm at Hertitage Park in McDonald.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Marnell, 3 – Ab. Cone, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Reaghard, 7 – Zimmerman, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – Sabatini, 17 – T. Chapman, 18 – Fazekas, 19 – Dell
Substitutions: Dell for Vesley @ 55’ (IJ), T. Chapman for Benvenuti @ 60’ (TC)
Referee: Unknown (ORURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (5), A. Chapman (3), Massie (1), Rennie (6), Zangaro (4), Zapf (1)
Conversions: Powers (3/6)
Cards: Neil Reynolds (Yellow), Michael Zapf (Red)
Man of the Match: Devin Zangaro, Fullback (1)
MATCH REPORT: October 15, 2016 vs. Cleveland Rovers
On a cool and sunny fall day, the Highlanders looked to exact revenge on a tough Cleveland Rovers side who beat them out for the division championship by one league point at the conclusion of the 2015 – 2016 competition cycle. Although the Highlanders split the home at home series with the Rovers, the sting of not making the playoffs still weighed on the Highlanders mind. After some confusion with the Allegheny Rugby Union’s Referee Society, the game kicked off about 30 minutes late, with the Rovers receiving the ball.
After several minutes of back and forth rugby, the Highlanders were able to take advantage of a missed knock on call and open up the scoring when outside center Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) touched down his fourth try of the season. A few minutes later, wing Scott Powers (UPJ) was able to slip through a hole in the Cleveland defense to touch down his first try of the season and put the Highlanders up by 10. Shortly before the half, talented scrumhalf Zach Powell (Cal U) was able to break free and touch down his second try of the season. After the conversion by Powers, the Highlanders were able to take a 17 – 0 lead into the half.
The Rovers were large and hard hitting; their size knocked two Highlander forwards out of the game at half and almost a third when Number 8 Michael Rennie (Old Blue) was removed from the game temporarily due to blood. At half, reserves Bill Marnell (Cal U) and Tim Chapman were able to come on for the injured Dan Andrus and John Shearer (Cal U). After the second half kick, center Neil Reynolds (UPJ), who was having an excellent game was able to cut through the backline and score his second try of the season. This was followed by two consecutive tries by flanker Mike Boyd (Cal U) before he was removed from the game after tempers flared at the bottom of a ruck. This brought on forward’s captain Sammy Zimmerman (IUP) to assist in closing out the game.
The Rovers were able to score twice during the second half, but it was not enough to keep up with the high powered Highlander offense. Even as they brought on reserves to rest tired starters, Powers and Powell were each able to add additional tries and Powers found his conversion touch near the end of the game. The final score read: Highlanders 46 – Rovers 10.
With the win, the Highlanders improved to 5 – 0 and remained undefeated on the season. The Rovers fell to 2 – 3 leading into their bye week. The Highlanders will take their first place record to the second place Cleveland Crusaders (D3) this upcoming weekend. The Crusaders only lost was week one to the Rovers, but have since won four in a row to challenge the Highlanders division lead. The game will be kicked off on the east side of Cleveland on Saturday, October 22 at 1:00pm.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Shearer, 6 – Boyd, 7 – David, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – Marnell, 17 – T. Chapman, 18 – Benvenuti, 19 – Zimmerman, 20 – Vesely, 21 – Fazekas, 22 – Gregovich, 23 – R. Gregg
Substitutions: Benvenuti for Rennie @ 35’ (BL), Rennie for Benvenuti @ 40’ (BL), Marnell for Andrus @ 40’ (IJ), T. Chapman for Shearer @ 40’ (IJ), Zimmerman for Boyd @ 63’ (TC), R. Gregg for Ab. Cone @ 70’ (TC), Vesely for Zapf @ 70’ (TC) and Fazekas for Rennie @ 75’ (TC)
Referee: None Provided by ARURS
Tries: Boyd (2, 3), Dobbins (4), Powell (2, 3), Powers (1, 2), Reynolds (2)
Conversions: Powers (3/8)
Man of the Match: Zach Powell, Scrumhalf (2)
MATCH REPORT: October 8, 2016 @ Akron Rugby Club
On what ended up being a very nice, fall day, the Highlander men (3 – 0) traveled to northeastern Ohio to take on a tough Akron (2 – 1) side at their beautiful pitch. Akron, just off a lost to the Cleveland Crusaders, look to improve to 3 – 1 while dropping the Highlanders to 3 – 1 for a win – loss tie atop the Midwest Eastern Division.
The opening kickoff went to the Highlanders and the methodically moved the ball down the field with several phases. Playing text book rugby, the Highlanders were able to spring talented fullback Devin Zangaro (IUP) for his third try of the season. It was a fitting conclusion to a beautiful sequence of text book rugby. Akron was able to show some fight, and several times took the ball down the field and threatened in Highlander territory. The Highlander defense was strong, however and forced a mistake to regain possession.
Brandon Benvenuti was able to put down one try and was awarded another on a high tackle, penalty try… both in the first half. Eric David, was able to make an incredible play, picking off the pass from the scrumhalf to the flyhalf off an Akron lineout that stunned the Akron players and the crowd. The relentless Highlander lineout defense confused and frustrated Akron all day. At the half, the Highlander led 24 – 5.
During the second half, the Highlander began working some forward substitutions into the game. First came Bill Marnell (Cal) for Mike Boyd (Cal). Marnell was able to make an impact in the scrum as the Highlander forwards dominated the scrums throughout most of the day. The set piece domination directly led to two tries for Pittsburgh; first from scrumhalf Zach Powell (Cal) and then from Number 8 Mike Rennie (Old Blue). The last score of the day for the Highlander came from talented lock Andrew Chapman (Erie RFC) and after the Scott Powers (UPJ) failed conversation, the Highlanders put up 43 points on the road against a tough Akron squad. Akron, to their credit was able to take advantage of a few Highlander mistakes and spring their talented center for two tries on the day. After all was said and done, the Highlanders won the game by a commanding margin: 43 – 21.
This weekend, the Highlanders will host the Cleveland Rovers (2 – 3) for the fall home finale. The Rovers are the division champions from last season and prevented the Highlanders from making the playoffs for two consecutive years. Although seemingly down this year with 3 losses, the Rovers are a very tough team that can score from anywhere on the field. The Highlanders will look to improve to 5 – 0 before traveling to Cleveland to face the second place Crusaders on 10/22.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Boyd, 7 – David, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – Munk, 17 – Marnell, 18 – T. Chapman, 19 – Fazekas, 20 – Reaghard, 21 – Zimmerman, 22 – Gregovich, 23 – R. Gregg
Substitutions: Marnell for Boyd @ 40’ (TC), T. Chapman for Benvenuti @ 55’ (IJ), R. Gregg for Andrus @ 60’ (TC), Gregovich for Zapf @ 60’ (TC), Zimmerman for Rennie @ 65’ (IJ)
Referee: Unavailable (ORURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (3, 4), A. Chapman (2), David (4), Powell (1), Rennie (5), Zangaro (3)
Conversions: Powers (4/7)
Man of the Match: Zach Powell, Scrumhalf (1)
MATCH REPORT: September 24, 2016 @ Greensburg Rugby
On a cool and overcast Saturday afternoon, the Highlanders traveled east to Mammoth Park, Mt. Pleasant, PA to face brother club – the Greensburg Maulers. The Highlanders consider Greensburg a brother club because when the Maulers were looking to get things rolling again, it was the Highlanders who worked closely with them in getting operations back up and rolling. Now, standing firmly on their own two feet, the Greensburg are an up and coming club filled with solid, hard hitting ruggers that are formidable on any given Saturday.
As the game got rolling, it became apparent to the Highlanders that the Mauler’s home field advantage definitely lies in the size of their pitch at Mammoth Park. The narrow field did not provide much running room and a spread defensive line would leave very little gaps for the Highlander back line or their shifty forwards. With Greensburg’s solid tackling skill and hard running style, it was apparent that the Highlanders were not going to be able to finesse around Greensburg, rather they would have to run through them.
After several minutes of grueling offense and attempts to go wide around Greensburg, Highlander number 8, Michael Rennie was able to open up the scoring with a try off the back of a 5 meter scrum. Scott Powers (UPJ) was unable to convert the kick, but the Highlanders were finally able to break through and lead 5 – 0. The next several minutes were once again dominated by tight running, hard hits and some ball miscues, but shifty forward Brandon Benvenuti was finally able to find some space to dot down his second try of the season. Powers was able to convert and the Highlanders found their lead build to 12 – 0. Throughout the game, Greensburg was able to hang tough and continue to provide the Highlanders with no space. During the later stages of the first half, and into the second half, Greensburg was able to continually maintain possession and test the defense of the Highlanders. Greensburg was able to get one try down before half and begin the second half down only 12 – 7.
The second half was much like the first: hard, solid tackling and slow, but steady offense. Each team’s defense was tested and the hard hits started to take their toll as injuries started to affect both teams. Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) was able to get down his second try in two weeks to put the Highlander up 19 – 5 only to see Greensburg maintain possession and battle back for another score. The game was close again, 19 – 12, heading into the final minutes with both teams taking turns threatening offensively and conversely making great defensive stands. Finally, with about 5 minutes remaining, flanker Mike Boyd (Cal) was able to make an excellent play, forcing a Mauler turnover deep in their own territory. Boyd was able to make the hard tackle, field the loose ball and carry it forward to near the Greensburg try line. The play set up Dobbins for his second try of the game, and after the conversion by Powers, the 26 – 12 Highlander lead seemed enough to finish off the tough Maulers. Greensburg would not go quietly, however, and were able to dot down a final try as time expired to finish the game 26 – 19 in favor of the Highlanders.
The Highlanders are 3 – 0 and atop the Midwest Eastern – East division standings as they head into an October 1st bye week. Not far behind them is the surprising Akron Rugby Club who stands at 2 – 0 heading into their weekend clash with the Cleveland Crusaders. If Akron can win that matchup, they will set up an intriguing early season match-up with the Highlanders on October 8. The Highlanders travel to Akron on that date for a battle of first place in the division.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – Boyd, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – David, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – Munk, 17 – Marnell, 18 – Smith, 19 – T. Chapman, 20 – Zapf, 21 – Dell, 22 – Gregorich, 23 – Fazekas
Substitutions: Marnell for Crifaci @ 48’ (TC), T.Chapman for Benvenuti @ 55’ (IJ), Smith for Andrus @ 62’ (IJ), Zapf for Rennie @ 62’ (IJ), Fazekas for Zimmerman @ 65’ (TC)
Referee: Alex Gralia (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (2), Dobbins (2, 3), Rennie (4)
Conversions: Powers (3/4)
Cards: Yellow – None
Man of the Match: Brandon Benvenuti, Lock (1)
MATCH REPORT: September 17, 2016 v. Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3)
The Highlanders looked to continue their winning ways as they hosted Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3) who were coming off a 29 – 15 loss at the hands of the Greensburg Maulers in week 1. On a cool and overcast day, the Highlanders eagerly anticipated to the league debuts of new number 8 Michael Rennie, the return of long time outside center Patrick Dobbins and the first appearances of rookies Chad Smith and Keith Gregovich.
The Highlanders were able to score quickly off the fast feet of Devin Zangaro (IUP). For the second week in a row, Devin, a natural flyhalf or center, was able to take a nice pass from Nick Weidhaas (Union College) and use his speed to touch the ball down. Devin has made a nice transition to wing for the Highlanders and is proving to be quite a versatile asset in the Highlander back line. Shortly thereafter, City was able to dot down a try, but it was quickly answered by Highlander number 8 Michael Rennie. Later in the half, City was awarded a penalty try after rookie Keith Gregovich, playing in his first rugby contest, horse collared a player and was sent to the sin bin. City took the lead on the play, but the Highlanders were able to pound in two more tries before the half from center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) and flanker Eric David. The score at half read: Highlanders 24 – Pitt City 12.
The second half was a continuation of Highlander dominance. The lead they would build throughout the second half would allow them to get new players some much needed in game experience. Highlander lock Andrew Chapman was able to dot down his first try of the season and Rennie was able to place down two consecutive tries to blow the game wide open. Even though City was able to score one more time with time running out, Highlander reserves Timmy Chapman and Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) were able to touch down their first tries of the season. Dobbins, playing wing off the bench today, was seeing his first action since July when he broke his thumb at Cleveland’s Rock ‘n Roll 7’s tournament. He was thrilled to get back into the action and on the score sheet.
After all the action was completed, the Highlander beat cross-town rival Pittsburgh Rugby Club to the score of 53 -19. With the win, the Highlanders improve to 2 – 0 and sit atop the Midwest Eastern Division. They will travel to Greensburg (1 – 1) next week.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – R. Gregg, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Boyd, 7 – David, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Gregovich, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Weidhaas, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Andrus, 17 – Reaghard, 18 – T. Chapman, 19 – Smith, 20 – Glasstetter, 21 – Dobbins, 22 – Zapf, 23 – Fazekas
Substitutions: Dobbins for Gregovich @ 40’ (TC), Glasstetter for Vesely @ 50’ (TC), Andrus for R. Gregg @ 60’ (TC), T. Chapman for A. Chapman @ 60’ (TC), Reaghard for Boyd @ 65’ (TC), Smith for Rennie @ 70’ (TC), Fazekas for Reaghard @ 75’ (BL)
Referee: Judd Worrall (ARURS)
Tries: A. Chapman (1), T. Chapman (1), David (3), Dobbins (1), Rennie (1, 2, 3), Reynolds (1), Zangaro (2)
Conversions: Powell (4/9)
Cards: Yellow – Andrus (1), Gregovich (1)
Man of the Match: Michael Rennie, Number 8 (1)
MATCH REPORT: September 10, 2016 v. South Pittsburgh Hooligans
The Highlanders hosted rival South Pittsburgh on an extremely warm and sunny late summer day. Both teams came into the game with high expectations on the 2016 season. Leading up to the game, the Highlanders were bolstered their roster by a large group of newly recruited players while the Hooligans added several players from the recently disbanded Erie RFC. The Highlanders looked to make it five wins in a row during league play against the Hooligans, while South Pittsburgh looked to build some momentum off a 7’s victory over the summer.
The Hooligans kicked off and immediately the Highlanders went to work. Strong forward running and excellent support lead to a quick score by lock Brandon Benvenuti, putt the Highlanders up 7 – 0 quickly after a conversion by Scott Powers (UPJ). Unfortunately, the Hooligans would just as quickly steal momentum shortly thereafter and keep it for most of the first half. The Highlanders had trouble with set pieces early and containing the large South Pittsburgh centers. The Hooligans were able to put two scores up on the Highlanders, while only converting one, to take a lead with little time in the half remaining. Luckily, rookie back Devin Zangaro (IUP) was able to take a nice offload from center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) and put the Highlanders back up before half after the Powers conversion, 14 – 12.
The Highlanders were very tired and disappointed in their first half performance. They looked to regroup in the second half with some key substitutions and corrections to their set pieces. Although the Hooligans were able to keep the game modestly close with great ball movement and hard running, the Highlanders conditioning and deep bench were able to be the difference in the game.
The second half was highlighted by great play from fullback Zach Powell (Cal U), flanker Eric David and Mike Boyd (Cal U). Boyd, who moved back to wing after starting the game at flanker, took a nice pass on the outside to score a beautiful corner try. Center David Gregg (IUP) was able to field a bouncing ball in the try zone off the foot of Neil Reynolds, and Eric David was able to score twice in the second half. Powell was playing a clinical game at fullback and set up a number of scoring opportunities. Scott Powers was perfect on the day with conversions, making several from the corners. At the final whistle, the Highlanders were able to hold of the Hooligans in the heat and win by a score of 42 – 26.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Marnell, 3 – R. Gregg, 4 – Benvenuti, 5 – Shearer, 6 – Boyd, 7 – David, 8 – A. Chapman, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – D. Gregg, 13 – Reynolds, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Andrus, 17 – Reaghard, 18 – Fazekas, 19 – T. Chapman, 20 – Zimmerman, 21 – Gregovich, 22 – Zapf
Substitutions: T. Chapman for A. Chapman @ 40’ (IJ), Zimmerman for Vesely @ 40’ (TC), Reaghard for Marnell @ 55’ (IJ), Andrus for Zimmerman @ 65’ (IJ), Fazekas for Shearer @ 67’ (IJ)
Referee: Jamie Miller (PRO Rugby)
Tries: Benvenuti (1), Boyd (1), David (1, 2), D. Gregg (1), Zangaro (1)
Conversions: Powers (6/6)
Man of the Match: Mike Boyd, Flanker/ Wing (1)
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)
On a very cold and blustery April day, the Highlanders hosted an always tough club from Erie, PA. With snow flying in the air, the Highlanders looked to avenge a narrow 10 – 7 defeat at the hands of Erie in September of 2015. It was one of only two Highlander losses on the season. Erie was coming in without a loss, but had yet to play their two toughest games of the season: at the Highlanders and at the Cleveland Rovers the next weekend.
The contest got off to a heated start with veteran number 8 David Banta earning a yellow card while defending his scrumhalf. Erie, known for sometimes taking liberties against opponents, was being aggressive against the undersized Powers following a breakdown. Banta, separated the Erie player from Powers before being punched by Erie’s outside center. The confrontation earned Banta a 10 minute break with a yellow card and the Erie player a game misconduct with a red card. It took the Highlanders only a few minutes to take advantage of the numbers before talented young lock Brandon Benvenuti was able to touch down his first try of the day. Powers was able to hit the conversion and the club enjoyed a 7 – 0 lead.
At the 25 minute mark, Erie was able to get on the board with a score of their own before outside center Patrick Dobbins was able to reestablish the lead 10 minutes later. Again, Powers was able to hit the conversion and the Highlanders led 14 – 5 at the half.
After the half, Erie was able to find the try zone again and add a conversion to cut the lead to 2. After several changes in possession and lots of back and forth rugby, Benvenuti and Dobbins were able to add 2 late game tries to pull away from the always resilient All Blacks. With an added Powers conversion, the final score read 26 – 12, improving the Highlanders to 6 – 2 on the season.
Highlander First 15: 1 – Cone, 2 – Colon, 3 – Gregg (R), 4 – Benvenuti, 5 – Marnell, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – David, 8 – Banta, 9 – Powers, 10 – Massie, 11 – Glasstetter, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Muraco, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Andrus, 17 – Deakin, 18 – Sampson, 19 – Lacek, 20 – Dell
Substitutions: Sampson for Colon @ 55 minutes (TC)
Tries: Benvenuti (10, 11), Dobbins (5,6)
Conversions: Powers (3/4)
Cards: Banta (Yellow)
This past Saturday, the Highlander Men opened their Spring 2016 with a sloppy, but effective 36 – 10 win over crosstown rivals Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3). Although the weather was clear and a bit warmer than predicted, high wind gusts played havoc on kicked and passed balls throughout the match for both clubs.
With the win, the Highlanders improve to 6-2 on the season as they come back home for a huge match against Erie RFC. In October, Erie handed the Highlanders a heartbreaking 10 – 7 loss in Erie. The Highlanders will look to exact revenge on Erie at home and keep their post season hopes alive.
Kickoff will be at 1:00 PM at the Club’s pitch located at 725 Mountain Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15210.
Line from Saturday’s game @ Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3):
- Abe Cone (Cal U)
- Jose Colon (Lock Haven)
- Rob Gregg
- Bill Marnell (Cal U)
- John Shearer (Cal U)
- Sammy Zimmerman (IUP)
- Eric David
- Brandon Benvenuti
- Scott Powers (UPJ)
- Tyree Massie (Cal U)
- Ryan Muraco (Slippery Rock)
- Neil Reynolds (UPJ)
- Patrick Dobbins (UPJ)
- Mike Boyd (Cal U)
- Zach Powell (Cal U)
- Dan Andrus
- Arley Cone (Cal U)
- David Banta (Cal U)
- Dan Glasstetter (Geneva)
- David Vesely
- Denny Hind
- Logan Elias (W&J)
Tries – Benvenuti (8,9), Reynolds (7), Gregg [R.] (1), Cone [Ab] (2), David (3)
Conversions – Powers (3/6)
After starting the season in Youngstown for a split side tournament, the Highlanders brought in playoff bound and perennial MARFU powerhouse, Happy Valley to test their legs in the preseason. The weather was bitterly cold, with sun peeking through only occasionally. With a kickoff temperature just 19 degrees and the pitch frozen solid, the Highlanders would need to battle both the harsh conditions and the tough Barbarian squad to pull out a tough victory on this day.
Shortly after kickoff, the Highlanders were able to pressure Happy Valley deep into their own defensive zone. After successfully winning the lineout, the Barbarians attempted to maul the ball forward and test the larger Highlander pack. Pittsburgh was able to stop the maul with only a few forwards and pressure with the remainder. The Barbarians got the ball back to their Flyhalf to attempt a much needed kick to create some space. Talented flanker David Gregg was able to charge down and block the kick, then field the ball cleanly to set down his first try of the 2014 – 2015 campaign and open up the scoring for the Highlanders. It was a great play and rewarded Gregg for his aggressive play. Scott Powers was able to nail an impressive conversion from the near sideline to give the Highlanders the early 7 – 0 lead.
A few minutes later, gifted second year lock Brandon Benvenuti was able to cut through the Barbarian defense to score his first try of the day. Benvenuti has been a rising star on the Highlander squad since joining in the spring of 2014. While still learning the game, he’s impressed coaches with skills on both sides of the ball and is second on the Club with 6 tries after scoring his second during the first half of this match. Benvenuti’s tries book ended a try by formidable Inside Center Neil Reynolds who was able to make the most of a tough day for the Highlander backline. Muddy and cold conditions didn’t allow for many clean balls out wide, but Neil was able to make the most of his few touches by scoring his 4th try of the season. All first half Highlander tries were converted by Powers, including a few from near the sidelines. The Highlanders were able to take 28 – 0 lead into the half.
After the half, the Highlanders started working in some fresh legs onto the field. The muddy field conditions were exhausting to run in and many Highlander forwards were relieved to see fresh veterans Bill Marnell and David Banta enter the game at the 50 minute mark. The Highlander pack continued to dominate the smaller Happy Valley forwards and Rookie of the Year winner Zack Kochin was able to take advantage and score 2 second half tries off convincing scrum wins. With Powers out of the game due to a late first half injury, Kochin took over kicking duties, making 1 of his 2 initial conversions.
Happy Valley did get some life late in the game as the newer Highlander players began committing penalties. Benvenuti and Chapman came out for veteran Brandon Sampson and Rookie Robert Gregg, but a Barbarian prop was able to set down an unconverted try and the opposition nearly scored again before being called back on a failure to release penalty. Powerhouse Prop Jarred Frawley was able to set up rookie wing Sanakla Voce for his first try as a Highlander. Kochin was unable to hit the conversion, but after the final whistle sounded, the Highlanders pounded a talented Happy Valley squad to a tune of 45 – 5.
On a cold and overcast afternoon in October, the Highlanders looked to close out their season series with Pittsburgh Rugby Club with yet another win. Similar to last season, the Highlanders hoped to sweep the fellow Pittsburgh side and remain perfect on the season. Pitt City however, would be coming in from the other end of the standings, still looking for their first win of the season. City has been improving each week since the 69 – 0 blow out loss to the Highlanders in Week 1 of the schedule.
Shortly after kickoff, the Highlanders were able to gain possession and march their way down the field. After an infraction deep in their own zone, the Highlanders were able to set up Prop Jarred Frawley for his seventh try of the season. The try came off a brilliantly ran penalty play and was converted by Wing Scott Powers. Powers was on his way to a very big day, both kicking and running the ball. After the score, Pitt City moved the ball near the Highlander 22 meter line. After talented Lock John Shearer was able to steal the Pittsburgh line out, Scott Powers was able to weave his way through several City defenders and carry the ball deep into opposition territory. This allowed the Highlander backline to set up fellow Winger Brian Barnett with his fourth try of the season in the corner of the tryzone. The tough conversion was missed and the Highlanders roared to a 12 – 0 advantage.
At the ten minute mark, Pitt City was able to force a Highlander penalty in their zone which allowed City to convert a penalty kick. The Highlander responded quickly however with a brilliant try from Outside Center Patrick Dobbins, his first of the season. Dobbins has proven to be a versatile player, like many of the back line, and change positions each week depending on the personnel available. His try was followed by an equally brilliant try by an equally versatile player, Tyree Massie, who was playing Flyhalf today. The try was celebrated with an enthusiastic splash into the try zone by Massie. Equally enthusiastic was the try by veteran forward Abe Cone at the thirty minute mark. Cone found daylight to the side of the breakdown and nearly tripped over his feet as he dove into the try zone. The score was converted by Powers. Massie was able to put down his second try of the day and the Highlanders took a dominating 36 – 3 lead into the half.
The second half of the game would be much like the first half, with almost total Highlander domination. Flanker Zack Kochin was able to run down his sixth try of the season before a small defensive lapse gave Pitt City a try of their own for the day. The score was quickly answered back by crafty Scrumhalf Zack Powell who was able to dance his way through several defenders to place down his second try and as many games for himself. Lock and Captain Andrew Chapman was able to place down his second try of the season, his first coming against City in week one. Powers was able to nail that conversion as well.
At the sixty minute mark, Dobbins was able to field a nice pass from reserve Forward Bill Marnell and score his second impressive try of the day, after the conversion Pitt City informed the referee they’d like to cut the game a little short with the weather quickly deteriorating. The Highlander’s Zack Kochin was able to place down one more try and convert it himself before the referee called the game about 10 minutes early. The final read Highlanders 67 – Pitt City 10. With the victory, the Highlanders improved to 5 – 0 and host a tough Akron side in the fall season finale at Phillip Murray Park.
Highlander Line vs. Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3)
- Jarred Frawley (Grove City)
- Abe Cone (Cal U)
- Jeff Muha
- Andrew Chapman
- John Shearer (Cal U)
- Brandon Sampson (Slippery Rock)
- Zack Kochin (Cal U)
- David Banta (Cal U)
- Zach Powell (Cal U)
- Tyree Massie (Cal U)
- Brian Barnett (Cal U)
- Neil Reynolds (UPJ)
- Patrick Dobbins (UPJ)
- Scott Powers (UPJ)
- Kevin Dell
- Matt Luba (UPJ)
- Bill Marnell (Cal U)
- Timmy Chapman
- Brandon Benvenuti
- Matt Kierzkowski (PSU – Behrend)
- Will Foran (Carnegie Mellon)
- Kyle Bloser (Univ. of Pitt)
- Aamir Ali
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:
- Jarred Frawley (Grove City)
- Arley Cone (Cal U)
- Abe Cone (Cal U)
- Andrew Chapman
- Jeff Muha
- David Gregg (IUP)
- Zack Kochin (Cal U)
- David Banta (Cal U)
- Zach Powell (Cal U)
- Thanner Hestdalen (S.U.N.Y Cortland)
- Brian Barnett (Cal U)
- Neil Reynolds (UPJ)
- Tyree Massie (Cal U)
- Patrick Dobbins (UPJ)
- Scott Powers (UPJ)
- Bill Marnell (Cal U)
- Timmy Chapman
- Brandon Benvenuti
- Eric Zyski (Cal U)
- Will Foran (Carnegie Mellon)
- Kevin Dell
- Brandon Sampson (Slippery Rock)
- Aamir Ali
The Highlanders traveled to McDonald, PA on a cold and blustery day to take on cross town rival and former Division Champion South Pittsburgh Hooligans. The Highlanders, coming off a bye week, looked to improve their 2 – 0 record and maintain first place in the division as well as in the league. South Pittsburgh was coming off a tough loss to Akron and looked to rebound and bring their record back to .500.
After losing the toss, the Highlanders were forced to kick into the wind to the Hooligans. The tone of the day was set immediately as first year Flanker Zack Kochin was able to field the kickoff and take the ball inside the Hooligan 10 meter line before a great defensive play knocked down a sure try setting pass to Wing Patrick Dobbins. Following the Hooligan knock on, the Highlander pack was able to secure the scrum and get the ball out wide to rookie Highlander Wing Brian “BBar” Barnett who set down his first try of the season and of his Highlander career.
Momentum was stalled after the ensuing kickoff and after some penalties and misplays, the Highlanders found themselves deep in their own defensive territory for more than 15 minutes. A score given up to South Pitt would allow them back into the game. Strong defensive play, a timely poach by Flanker David “MK” Gregg and long run by veteran Hooker Arley Cone got the Highlanders out of danger and back into South Pitt’s side of the field. Eventually talented Flyhalf Thanner Hestdalen was able to make several nice moves on his way to his first try as a Highlander. After the Scott Powers conversion, the Highlanders stole all momentum back from South Pittsburgh and led the match 12 – 0. A few minutes later, veteran forward Abe Cone was able to cut through a large hole in the defense to set down his first try of the day and give the Highlanders a commanding 17 – 0 lead.
Even with a lead, the Highlanders had some trouble battling penalties this game and put themselves in rough positions at two points in the game. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half, David “MK” Gregg found himself in some penalty trouble which landed him in the sin bin. Even playing a man down, the Highlander defense held and they were even able to score twice. Talented Inside Center Neil Reynolds was able to set down his second try of the season and powerhouse Prop Jarred Frawley was rewarded for his punishing running by setting down his fifth try of the season. After the Powers conversion, the Highlanders took a 29 – 0 lead into the half.
After the half, the Highlanders brought in veteran Fullback Kevin Dell for Powers and exciting rookie Flanker Brandon Benvenuti for Gregg. The weather took a turn for the worse and stalled the Highlander offense. After a few minutes of bogged down rugby, Abe Cone was able to break a long run on the outside to set down his second try of the game. Zack Kochin missed his only conversion attempt of the day before being sin binned himself midway through the second half. Once again down a man, the Highlanders were able to generate offense and hold the Hooligans scoreless. After rookie Scrumhalf Kyle “Calico” Hilsey took a ball into contact, he was mauled by reserve forward Bill Marnell along with Andrew “Lurch” Chapman and David Banta for a try. The score was Banta’s second of the season.
Leading 39 – 0 with just a few minutes remaining, the Highlanders used the opportunity to bring in some great players for additional experience and valuable playing time. Rookie Scrumhalf Zach Powell came in for Hilsey while wing Ammir Ali, Hooker Matt “Doormat” Zackeroff and lock Tim Chapman replaced Brian Barnett, Jeff Muha and Zach Kochin respectively. The Hooligans were able to take advantage of a broken lineout play deep in Highlander territory to place down a score, but the Highlanders were able to answer that in the last minute of the game. Kevin Dell kicked a perfectly placed ball just behind the goal post and was able to capitalize on a Hooligan miscue to set down his first career try on an amazing play. The Highlanders beat the Hooligans 46 – 5 to improve to 3 – 0 and hold on to first place in the Eastern Division. They will open up their home portion of the season against the also 3 – 0 Erie RFC. The Hooligans take their 1 – 3 record into their bye week.
The Highlanders took their 1 – 0 record to Akron for their Fall 2014 home opener. Akron boasted a large crowd following their women’s match on a beautiful sunny September day. The Highlanders were coming off a 69 – 0 victory of Pittsburgh Rugby Club while Akron was looking to open up their 2014 campaign on the right foot by beating a Club that defeated them twice the prior season.
Akron kicked off to Lock Bill Marnell who was immediately able to swing the ball wide to the talented Highlander back line. Playing text book fundamental rugby, the Highlanders were able to methodically travel down the field with timely offloads and excellent support. They put Akron on their heels early with young and talented flanker Brandon Benvenuti placing down his second try of the young season. Veteran Scott Powers, playing scrumhalf today was unable to convert the try leaving the Highlanders with an early 5 – 0 lead.
After a second kickoff to the Highlanders second row, the Club was able to once again move down the field in an organized fashion. After Akron committed a penalty near the 5 meter line, Highlander powerhouse prop Jarred Frawley was able to set down his first try of the day, his second on the young season. Powers was able to convert and gave the Highlanders a 12 point advantage. With momentum fully on their sides, Flyhalf Tyree “CC” Massie was able to spring center Neil Reynolds for his first try of the season and after the Powers conversion, the lead was extender to 19 points. Akron was able to take advantage of a small defensive crack and with a nice dummy pass from the fullback, the Akron side set down their first try of the day. The Highlanders used this opportunity to get in talented loose forward Zack Kochin who came in for Marnell. Akron was able to answer a second Benvenuti try in the 22nd minute with another try of their own, so the Highlanders brought on talented scrumhalf Kyle Hilsey and dominating wing Brian Barnett to shore up the defense. Jarred Frawley scored his second of the day shortly before half and after the Powers conversion, the Highlanders took a 31 – 12 lead into the half.
After half, the game was a more tightly played and tensions seemed to rise between the two clubs and the referee. 10 minutes into the half, Tyree Massie was able to set down his second try of the season to extend the Highlander lead. Powers converted this as well. A few minutes after, Akron was able to scamper down the field and set down their third try of the day to bring the score a little close, but tries by Zack Kochin and Jarred Frawley ended any Akron hopes of a comeback. The Highlanders were able to hold Akron at bay and even score a few times while being down 2 players for some time for questionable yellow cards. With time winding down, Akron was able to place another try down with just a few minutes remaining; however the result was already clear. The Highlanders took the game 50 – 22 to improve their record to 2 – 0 and earned a bonus point in both contests on the year.
The Highlanders opened their 2014 – 2015 league schedule against an old foe in the Pittsburgh Rugby Club’s Division III squad. The Highlanders were looking to repeat their sweep performance against Pitt City from last season, even though through recruiting the Pitt City squad would be a better opponent than in year’s past. The day was cool and rainy to start, but as kickoff approached, the weather cleared to a very comfortable 65 degrees with partly sunny skies. Pitt City kicked off to the Highlanders to begin the game and each team took opportunities to feel each other out in the opening minutes of the game. After the Highlanders were able to solve some initial scrimmaging problems, they were able to win the ball back to their talented backline. Tyree “CC” Massie, playing Flyhalf today, was able to cut through the City backline and set up the Highlanders inside the 22 meter line. After a Pitt City infraction, powerful Highlander Prop Jarred Frawley was able to lower his shoulder set down the opening score of the day, conversion was nailed by long time Highlander wing, Scott Powers.
Shortly after the ensuing kickoff, the Highlanders were once again deep in City territory after some long runs by Massie and Neil Reynolds. This time, rather than getting the ball to the backline, veteran Number 8 David Banta opted to pick the ball from the scrum and set up 1st Benvenuti up for his first try of the season. A few minutes later, Jeff Muha, playing his first game at Prop in a few years, was able to muscle through two City defenders to set down his first try of the day. Neither of the tries were converted by Powers.
After yet another very long run by Tyree Massie, who was able to pop the ball back to a supporting Andrew “Lurch” Chapman near the 5 meter line. With Massie being tracked down by the last City defender, Chapman was able to set the ball down with relative ease to extend the lead to 24 – 0 after the Scott Powers conversion. Zack Kochin was able to place down 2 tries before the half, one coming off a long run from a scrum down where he absolutely leveled at Pittsburgh defender. With Powers able to convert one of those tries, the Highlanders took a 38 – 0 lead into the half.
In the second half, the powerful Highlander pack was able to drive the scrum into the tryzone to set up Number 8 David Banta for his first try of the young season. From there, the second half began looking much the same as the first half ended; with 2 more Zach Kochin tries. The Highlanders then moved to get talented players from the bench onto the field in an effort to rest players. Veteran Lock Bill Marnell gave Rookie Tim Chapman a rest at the 50 minute mark. Soon thereafter, veteran forwards Brandon Sampson and Eric Zyski were able to get in and contribute to the win. Jeff Muha sprung for his second try of the game, one in which he dragged a Pittsburgh defender almost 10 meters into the try After the score, Powers was relieved by Matt Kierzkowski and Kevin Dell was rewarded for his big day with a rest from new comer Will Foran. Kevin played excellent all day which included a key tackle against the huge Pitt City outside center. The play came early in the game and a score by City could have changed the momentum of the match very easily. Kevin made the stick and thus preserved the Highlander shut out. With Powers out of the game, Zack Kochin went 2 for 2 on his conversions, giving him 24 points total on the day. Matt “Doormat” Zackeroff who made his way into the game late with Matt “Mongo” Luba was able to nail his only conversion attempt of the day. This followed a magnificent try by Tyree Massie to close out the scoring. The try was fitting for CC after assiting in several tries throughout the game. The final score read HIGHLANDERS 69 – Pitt City 0
On a beautiful spring day in southern Maryland, the Highlanders traveled to the 2014 Celtic Cup hosted by the Patuxent River RFC. The tournament was part of the Southern Maryland Celtic Festival which boasted Highland games, Celtic Food and Music in addition to the premier rugby tournament.
The Highlanders started the tournament off against a familiar foe – the Iron Guts from North Central West Virginia. This club formerly played against the Highlanders regularly in the Allegheny Division III Conference but in 2013 was moved to a regional Division IV competition. The club boasted several new faces and was notoriously hard hitting and well tackling. The Highlanders we able to move the ball forward down the field and rookie scrumhalf Neil “Jr” Manganaro was able to make a nice move and open up the scoring for the Highlanders. It was his first try as a Highlander. A few minutes later, powerhouse Flanker Jeff Muha was able to punish the defense on a long penalty run and place down his 3rd try of the season. Before the half came to a close, talented Flyhalf Tyree “CC” Massie was able to cut through the defensive line and set up winger Matt Kierzkowski with his first try of the season to make the half time score 21 – 0. Scott Powers and Matt Zackeroff were perfect on conversions during the first half, both hitting very difficult corner kicks with great accuracy. At the half, the Highlanders were able to start making substitutions to get all players into the game that made the trip. As players were rested and new players were given valuable experience, the level of intensity did not drop. The tough forward pack was able to maul several meters into the try zone and allow Lock Andrew Chapman to place down his 4th try of the season. With the try going unconverted. Even though the young defense was tested and bent, it did not relinquish a point with the final score reading Highlanders 26 – NCWVRFC 0. The Highlanders were 1 – 0 in the tournament.
Their next opponent was also a little familiar. Late last summer, the Highlanders played the Delmarva Outlaws in another Mid Atlantic Tournament – The Atlantic Cup. The Outlaws were eager to avenge a forceful Highlander win in that tournament. Knowing that the Highlanders were now playing back to back games in the hottest part of the day, coaches Brian Scanlon and David Banta had to be creative with the lineups and substitutions. To open up the scoring in this game, the Highlanders once again turned to veteran lock Andrew Chapman. He placed down his 5th try of the season to get the Highlanders a lead. Shortly thereafter, Prop Abe Cone was able to set down his 1st followed by Flanker Jeff Muha setting down his 4th of the year. The Highlanders once again jumped out to a 15 – 0 lead at the half. After some careful substitutions, the Highlanders were able to add another try, by rookie forward Brandon “Noodle” Benvenuti with time winding down in the game. Once again, the newer players on the Club were able to keep up the intensity and pressure the Outlaws offensively and defensively before a mistake in a breakdown lead to a Delmarva try with almost no time remaining. The final score Highlanders 20 – Delmarva 7 as the Highlanders improved to 2 – 0.
After a short, 5 minute break, the Highlanders were back on the pitch again to face a side from Prince William County. This was the first Club that the Highlanders had no experience with. Once again, the coaches were creative in putting together a line up moving veteran forwards Bill Marnell and Jeff Muha to Prop in order to spell the Cone brothers who had been working hard all day. It also asked rookie Wing Andy McFeaters to play flanker, a position that he would excel in throughout the game. The first two tries of the game were scored by veteran 8 – Man David Banta who was eager to get onto the score sheet. He touched down his 4th and 5th tries of the season after some long runs. The second run was set up nicely by a brilliant pass by veteran Hooker Matt “Doormat” Zackeroff. Dynamic backline player Neil Reynolds, playing everything from Flyhalf to Wing this tournament was able to set down 3 tries in this game to take his season scoring up to 5 tries. Brandon “Noodle” Benvenuti was also able to be rewarded for several long runs with his 2nd try of the tournament. The Highlanders pounded the Prince William squad 36 – 0 to take a perfect record into the Championship Game of the tournament.
In the Championship game the Highlanders would face the Patuxent River side, who was hosting the tournament. With rolling substitutions they were able to continuously spell tired or sore players with the 30+ player side filled with many powerful and physical athletes. The center piece of their offense was clearly their stud outside center that held in check and continuously frustrated by the defensive expertise of Highlander’s Outside Center Patrick Dobbins. It was quickly established that the Pax River side was going to make an effort to get the ball to their play maker and each time, but Dobbins was able to shoot in and drop him quickly or force him out of bounds each time he touched the ball. This frustrated the talented center to the point of almost earning card. Several times during the first half the Pax River side try of the season tested the exhausted Highlander defense that would bend, but never break. Several times defensive pressure was able to force Pax River mistakes Big runs by David Banta and Jeff Muha, key line out steals by Flanker John Shearer and key kicks by Fullback Kevin Dell all kept Pax River out of the try zone and added to their frustration as the game wore on. In the second half, the Highlanders were able to apply more offensive pressure of their own as the Pax River side continued to unwind under the stress of the Highlander’s relentless defense. They were forced deep into their own zone were they committed several penalties within their 5 meter line. Lock Andrew Chapman was able to drive the ball into the try zone, but the referee saw a knock rather than a touch down in the try zone. This led to scrumdown awarded to Pax River on the 5 meter line with no time remaining on the clock, the referee explaining to both sides that if no score was made before the next whistle, we would be going to extra time. Despite the Highlander’s forward’s best efforts, Pax River was able to win the scrum and pass the ball back to their Flyhalf for a kick out of danger. The overwhelming pressure by Neil Reynolds forced the Pax Fly to send a bad pass over to an inexperienced back who mishandled the ball. Just in the knick of time, he was able to get off a weak kick right into the hands of a charging Tyree Massie. “CC” as he’s known, was able to make an extraordinary play on the ball, fielding it and then having the presence of mind to hang on to it and place it down for the try as time expired. With Zackeroff making the conversion kick, the Highlanders won the Championship of the 2014 Celtic Cup with a 7 – 0 win over a very tough and well represented Patuxent River side.
The Highlanders ended the league portion of their schedule on a beautiful spring afternoon in Pittsburgh. The Club hosted the Canton Maddogs RFC on their pitch in South Side under ideal weather conditions for the first time in the young spring season. The Highlanders were looking for revenge after a tough loss to South Pittsburgh, while the Maddogs were looking to rebound from a blow out loss to Erie the week previously.
The game began with the Highlanders kicking off to Canton. After a few minutes, the Highlanders were able to regain possession and drive the ball deep into Canton territory. With the pressure mounting, Canton was able to get the ball out of danger by kicking into touch. The Highlanders were able to win the following lineout and Prop Matt Luba was ever so close to touching down his first try of the season before knocking the ball while suffering a gruesome knee contusion and being removed from the game. Luba ended up needing 13 stitches to repair a badly cut knee and was replaced by veteran front row powerhouse Arley Cone just 5 minutes into the contest. On the ensuing scrum, the pack was able to drive forward and set up Number 8 David Banta for the opening try. This was Banta’s first try of the day and second of the season.
From then on, the Highlanders were able to manhandle the Maddogs for the rest of the first half, even with the referee trying to keep Canton in the game. Inside Center, Neil Reynolds, who moved into the Flyhalf spot for this game was able to score his first two tries of the season, the second being beautifully set up by veteran Lock Andrew Chapman. Chapman is having an amazing season, both in scoring and setting up fellow players. Flanker Jeff Muha, who’s been on a tear this season also, was able to continue his scoring ways with a try, as well as Prop Jarred Frawley who now leads the team with 4 tries on the season. David Banta was able to score his second try of the day (third of the season) before being yellow carded shortly before half. The nice weather finally allowed talented Outside Center, today playing Inside Center, Patrick Dobbins to get on the score sheet for the first time this season. The Highlanders dominated play and were able to take a 43 – 7 lead into the half. They allowed a single score to Canton about halfway through the first half.
The Highlanders used the lead to reward some players that have been working extremely hard all season long, but may not have been able to get on the pitch for A side games. At half the Highlanders brought in veterans Brandon Sampson and Clint McConnell in for Marnell and Zackeroff. Sampson was only able to play for approximately 10 – 15 minutes for the second week in a row after being unjustly red carded for a legal tackle. The referee didn’t find it so and sent him off for dump tackling a Canton player. Being down a man for the second time in the game, the Highlanders did allow a Canton score, but kept the offensive pressure on as well. Once the Club was able to replace Sampson, promising rookie Brandon Benvenutti was brought into the game. Brandon was able to shake several tackles and touch down his first career try to put the Highlanders up 48 – 12 with just a few minutes remaining.
When Patrick Dobbins went down with an eye injury and Andrew Chapman was nursing a hamstring injury, the Highlanders further subbed in veteran Dan Houlihan and rookie Kyle Bloser to fill the holes. In the later stages of the game, Dan Andrus and Eric Zyski were able to spell Abe Cone and Matt Kierzkowski. Canton was able to place down one more try, but thanks to a strong defensive goal line stand by the Highlanders, led by Fullback Kevin Dell, that was all the closer they would pull the game. The Highlanders, pleased that they won the game, earned the bonus point and played all of their dressed players went home with a 48 – 19 dominating victory.
On a cold and dreary day in early April, the Pittsburgh Highlanders hosted 16 college teams from all over the area at their 2nd Annual Jeff Hewitt Memorial Collegiate Cup. This year, in addition to the collegiate tournament, the Highlanders would be hosting a league match against rival South Pittsburgh Hooligans. The Highlanders looked to avenge a blowout lost to the Hooligans last October with a gutsy win The game kicked off in less than ideal field conditions. Heavy rains during the week and multiple games being played on the pitch forced the game to be moved to an alternative pitch last minute. This field, still a muddy mess would be the best option for the Clubs even though it had a decent grade on it, a grade the Highlanders would have to climb in the first half of the game. It became apparent quickly that the conditions would dictate much of how this game would be played. Shortly after kickoff, the Highlanders were able to quickly gain possession and begin working their offense, moving the ball efficiently down the field. Typical powerhouse forwards like Prop Jarred Frawley and Flanker Jeff Muha led the charge as they punished through the South Pittsburgh backline, being supported by new flanker John “Whitey” Shearer, making his Highlander debut, and veteran 8-man David Banta. After a broken play, however, South Pittsburgh was able to regain possession deep in its own territory and move down hill against a stout Highlander defense. At the 13th minute mark, the Hooligans were able to set down a try to take a 5 – 0 lead on the Highlanders.
The Highlanders would not be kept down, however. Their level of intensity rose, sending the South Pitt Prop off with a broken nose and knocking out the talented South Pittsburgh wing as he scored a try to put the Hooligans up 12 – 0. This is how the half would end, and the Highlanders liked their chances going down hill on their own for the second half of the game. The coaching staff used the break to take advantage of some talented and fresh players on the Highlander sideline. Subbing out Shearer for Veteran Loose Forward Brandon Sampson and subbing out Veteran Forward Jason “Frogger” Edsall for the powerful Tanner “Chongo” Adams. With fresh legs and a downward slope, the Highlanders looked to punish the Hooligans and take the lead in this game.
Shortly into the half, Jarred Frawley was able to get into the try zone off of a penalty play and bring the game very close, but then the injury bug began to bite the Highlanders in this half instead of the Hooligans. Brandon Sampson, in for just 10 minutes pulled himself from the game with an undisclosed injury and needed to be replaced by Lock Clint McConnell. Shortly thereafter, Fullback Kevin Dell suffered what appeared to be a concussion and was replaced with rookie Wing Aamir Ali. Down some experience, the Hooligans were quickly able to capitalize on a few outside runs and place down two more tries, pushing the score to 22 – 5. The Highlanders would not quit, however. Playing inspired defense led by Flyhalf Tanner Hestdalen and Centers Neil Reynolds and Patrick Dobbins, the Highlanders were able to force mistakes and threaten the Hooligan lead multiple times. Jarred Frawley was able to place down a second try and came within inches of a third before time could expire. The final score read South Pittsburgh 22 – Highlanders 10, but South Pittsburgh could even feel the tide shirting towards the Highlanders several times in the second half.
With the loss, the Highlander’s record fell to 5 – 4 and their playoff hopes for this season came to an end. They will play the Canton Maddogs RFC in the final league game of the season and look to improve their league record to 6 – 4. They will then spend the remainder of the spring season building experience through friendly matches for many of their young and talented players to make a serious run in the Fall of 2014. The South Pittsburgh Hooligans, on the other hand, improved to 8 – 1 on the season and look to earn a high seed in the Midwest Playoffs.
After a long winter and a promising early season trip to Cincinnati, the Highlanders traveled 2 hours to Akron, OH to take on a tough club in some very wicked weather. After some early week change of venue scenarios, the game was ultimately kept in Akron where the conditions worsened as the day went along. Temperatures in the low 30’s made rain quickly turn to sleet as both clubs battled in mud and freezing wet weather.
In addition to the adverse weather conditions, the Highlanders further complicated the game for themselves by starting three rookie players for the first time in a Highlander uniform, a crafty veteran in a brand new position and a powerhouse leader with a bad wheel. Scrumhalf Neil “Jr” Manganaro, Flyhalf Tanner Hestdalen and Wing Andy McFeaters all made their Highlander’s First XV debut along with last year’s Flyhalf David “MK” Gregg moving to Flanker and Number 8 David Banta playing with a severely injured ankle.
The game started with the Highlanders kicking off the ball and immediately flexing their muscle. After a few short minutes of each team testing out the conditions, the Highlander forwards were able to assert their dominance. Just 10 minutes into the game, the Highlander pack was able to drive a 10 meter scrum into the try – zone allowing David Banta to touch down the ball for the first score of the day. The pack’s dominance didn’t stop there, however. With almost every scrum, the forward pack was overwhelming the Akron forwards, causing them to have to react quickly and fall back on their heels. When conditions didn’t allow the backs to get a clean ball, forwards like Prop Jarred Frawley, Lock Andrew Chapman and Flankers David Gregg and Jeff Muha were able to carry the load with several long and punishing runs.
These runs paid dividends throughout the game as Akron was beaten and bruised and becoming more reluctant to tackle as the big bodies went smashing through them. With about 15 minutes remaining in the half, Jarred Frawley was able to power through the defensive line on his way to a long run and his first try of the season. This set up the Highlanders with a 10 – 0 lead at the half.
With conditions worsening and the referee trying to allow Akron back into the game, Captain Abe Cone stood tall in keeping his Club in check. Even when veteran Lock Bill Marnell went down with a shoulder injury and replacement Lock Clint McConnell was almost immediately sin-binned, Cone and Veteran Number 8 Banta were able to keep the Club’s composure and focus. It wasn’t long with the Highlander’s swarming defense and overwhelming offense that the Club’s big forwards were able to put down a few more scores. 15 minutes into the second half, Veteran Lock Andrew “Lurch” Chapman, playing his first full season with the Highlanders, was able to place down his third try of the young season. To close out the scoring, Flanker Jeff Muha was rewarded for his amazing day with a try to close out the scoring. After Scott Powers was able to convert the final try in the terrible conditions, the whistle blew marking a 22 – 0 Highlanders shut out.
The Club was able to use its depth to win the game. Veteran Matt “Doormat” Zackeroff was able to spell Hooker Arley Cone who was having a great day in his own right. Rookie Forward Brandon “Noodle” Benvenutti was able to give a hurting David Banta a spell towards the end of the game. Flanker David “MK” Gregg suffered a devastating hit to his face from a tackler’s knee in the first 10 minutes of the game. With his eye quickly swelling shut and his bell rung, Gregg stayed in the game having several long runs and powerful tackles for another 60 minutes before finally being relieved by forward Nick Cerasoli who filled in admirably. The hit fractured Gregg’s face in three places and he will unfortunately miss 6 – 8 weeks due to the injury. It was a melancholy ending to an otherwise excellent day.
The Highlanders began the fall season with high expectations after an undefeated fall and a first place showing at the preseason Atlantic Cup in Dewey Beach, DE. They would be tested very early as their first match of the season would be against reigning Division III Eastern Champs: Erie RFC.
On a beautiful late fall day in Pittsburgh, the Highlanders battled Erie in what many considered one of the best rugby games they’d ever seen. The Highlanders weren’t able to take advantage of several long drives deep into Erie territory while Erie was able to pounce on every loose ball and bounce. Erie was able to score twice, but the Highlanders never gave up and shortly before half were able to get a converted try on the board. The second half was very back and forth as each team seeming to gain momentum and place down a try, just to be equaled by the other Club. The turning point occurred with just a few minutes left in the game as the Highlanders were in the lead and driving down the field to put a final nail in the coffin of the Erie side. Talented Center Neil Reynolds broke through the defensive line and had support on his outside. The Erie wing was able to make an amazing play of not only tackling the hard runner Reynolds, but stripped the ball from him as he went for the off load and carried the ball 70 meters for a try the other way. The game came down to conversions with each Club scoring 5 tries, but Erie was able to convert 3 to the Highlanders 2. The final read Erie 31 – Highlanders 29. Tries were scored by Neil Reynolds, Brandon Sampson (2), Patrick Dobbins and Abe Cone. Scott Powers converted 2/5 tries and the Man of the Match was Prop Jarred Frawley.
The next weekend, the Highlanders looked to get back on track and earn a win of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club’s Division III side. This game would prove to be quite a challenge as the Highlanders were forced to shuffle their backline due to some injuries and missing players. Flyhalf David Gregg showed true grit as he played with a severely sprained groin and player/coach David Banta showed his versatility by moving to play center. This game showed the best of the Highlanders offense, but also their inability to not allow teams to stay in games. After a large lead in the first half, over the course of the game the Highlanders allow the City D3 side to hang around and score some late game tries. Their comeback scores never made the game close, but gave Coach Banta plenty to work on before the game with South Pittsburgh. The final score was Highlanders 41 – Pittsburgh D3 25. Tries were scored by Jarred Frawley (2), David Gregg, Brandon Sampson, Neil Reynolds, Jeff Muha and Arley Cone. Scott Powers was 3/7 on conversions and for the second week in a row, Jarred Frawley was the Club’s Man of the Match.
The following weekend the Highlanders traveled to Oakdale, PA to take on the South Pittsburgh Hooligans on a warm late summer day. Still battling injuries in the backline, the Highlanders looked to make a statement against the 2 – 0 South Pitt Club who had blown out their first two opponents of the season. After a quick start from South Pittsburgh, the Highlanders found themselves down 2 tries just 20 minutes into the game. After a gut check, the Highlanders were able to take the momentum away from the Hooligans and place down scores from Center Neil Reynolds and Prop Jarred Frawley. They drew the half time score to 14 – 12, but put a real chill in the powerful South Pittsburgh Club. Unfortunately the depth of the South Pittsburgh was too much for the Highlanders as they suffered several injuries second half as well. They took advantage of a disheartened Highlander side the second half and blew the game wide open. A final score was placed down by the Highlanders late in the game, but by that point the game was well out of hand. The Hooligans handed Pittsburgh a tough 63 – 19 defeat. Tries were scored by Neil Reynolds, Jarred Frawley and Eric Games. Scott Powers was 1/2 on conversions; Matt Zackeroff was 1/1. Man of the Match was replacement lock Eric James.
After the bye week, the Highlanders took their 1 – 2 record against their next undefeated opponent: Akron RFC. This game, however, would not turn out the same as the South Pittsburgh game. This showed the Highlanders responding to adversity and coming together as a Club. From the opening kickoff, the Highlanders were able to make play after play springing several players for long runs against the Akron defense. David Banta sprang Captain Abe Cone for a long run deep into Akron territory and led to Brandon Sampson’s try to open the scoring. After Akron converted a penalty to cut the lead, Prop Jarred Frawley was able to touch down his first try of the day to extend the lead to 9. This would be the tone of the game as the Highlanders were able to set down a try or two only to be responded by the Akron side with either a penalty conversion or a try of their own. As time passed, however, Akron’s penalty kicks and tries here and there could not keep up with the consistent scoring from the Highlanders. Flanker Jeff Muha had a stand out game, scoring three tries, many of which required him to power through multiple defenders. Also with arguably his best game as a Highlander, Fullback Kevin Dell played perfectly offensively and defensively. Although he did not show up on the score sheet, his play was pivotal in the Highlander victory. The final score read Highlanders 39 – Akron 25, as they leveled their record at 2 – 2 and knocked off a key contender within the division. Tries were scored by Brandon Sampson, Jarred Frawley (2), Jeff Muha (3) and Clint McConnell. Scott Powers was 2/7 on conversions and Flanker Jeff Muha was named Man of the Match.
The following week, the Highlanders traveled to Canton, OH to secure a winning record for the first time in the season. They would face the Canton Mad dogs, the Club they beat for the Midwest Shield Tournament Championship back in April. Immediately following the opening kickoff, Scrumhalf Dan Houlihan was able to set up Lock Bill Marnell for his first try of the season. This was followed quickly by Center Neil Reynolds and the Highlanders jumped out to a quick 12 – 0 lead. Canton would battle back, however and score two converted tries quickly as they took advantage of fortunate bounces and Highlander mistakes. The Highlanders saw the game turn tough when they fell behind 14 – 12 within the first 20 minutes of the first halve. Player/ Coach David Banta then decided to take the game into his own hands, and Flanker Jeff Muha was able to continue his hot streak of scoring as the Highlanders buckled down and strived to take control of the game. The Mad dogs never went away without a fight as they took advantage of Highlander injuries and miscues. Ultimately, the Highlander offense was too much and they took home the victory 41 – 24. Tries were scored by Bill Marnell, Neil Reynolds, David Banta (2), Jeff Muha (2) and Patrick Dobbins. Matt Zackeroff was 2/6 on conversions and Dan Houlihan was 1/1. For the second week in a row, Flanker Jeff Muha was awarded the Man of the Match.
Finally with a positive record, the Highlanders traveled to Erie to avenge their heartbreaking loss at the beginning of the season. This game however ended up as bad as the Erie weather and field conditions. Erie was able to jump on Pittsburgh early, up by two tries. The Highlanders continued to battle and did touch down a score shortly before the half. Unfortunately, that would be the only Highlander score of the day. The second half, the Highlanders would be outmatched by the Erie backline and they put down several scores to pull out way ahead of the Club. Pittsburgh used the opportunity to get new players in some real work as the game was out of hand with a good part of the second half still to play. The Highlanders battled hard, made great tackles but ultimately lost a tough contest 43 – 5 to once again fall to .500 on the season. Try was scored by Brandon Sampson. Scott Powers missed his only opportunity for a conversion. Sampson, playing Number 8 today, also earned the Club’s Man of the Match award for the weekend.
To end the fall season, the Highlanders hosted Pittsburgh D3 at Boyce Park. This would prove to be one of the Highlanders most complete games, allowing Pitt City a few glimmers of hope in the beginning of the game, but ultimately pouring on the points and dictating play for a majority of the game. Flyhalf David “MK” Gregg, who was a game time decision after suffering all season with a bad groin injury, was once again able to open up the scoring against City. Fullback Kevin Dell was also nursing injuries a majority of the season and showed grit by suiting up for the Highlanders. Winger Scott Powers had a stand out game for the Highlanders. In addition to making a great hustle play to score a try on a City miscue, he also had an excellent kick off return, taking the ball from deep inside Highlander territory and making several defenders miss and carrying back to inside the City 40 meter line. Finally, on top of his consistent defensive skills, Powers was able to take a massive hit in order to steal a Highlander kickoff. All and all it was huge game for Scott, an accomplishment that would not go unrecognized by his fellow teammates. The Highlander centers were also able to have a field day cutting through the Pitt City defense and place down four tries between the two of them. At the end of the day, the Highlanders were able to pound the Pittsburgh D3 side to the tune of 66 – 24. Tries were scored by David Gregg, Brandon Sampson, Jarred Frawley, Scott Powers, Patrick Dobbins (2), Neil Reynolds (2), Abe Cone and David Banta. Scott Powers had his best kicking day as he went 4/6 on conversions. Dan Houlihan was a perfect 4/4 on his conversions as well. As mentioned above, Scott Powers was recognized for his standout performance and named the Club’s Man of the Match.
The Highlanders finished the season in 3rd place in the division and will play 3 additional league games in the spring of 2014. First they will travel to Akron on March 29th, then host South Pittsburgh and Canton RFC on April 5 and 12th respectively. If the Highlanders are able to finish their business and end the season with a 7 – 3 record, they will have to look for some outside help in order to earn a playoff birth. See you in the spring!