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Heart of America Wins With Teamwork

HS Boys

Heart of America Wins With Teamwork

Having made the final of the Rocky Mountain Challenge and losing to a tough Utah team 17-8, the Heart of America Boys all-star squad has got to feel fairly pleased with their efforts this spring.

Head Coach and former USA prop Tim Kluempers said the performance, including a 3rd-place finish for the JV team, was an indication that the region is getting stronger.

“We had a really good attitude from the players,” enthused Kluempers. “We are senior-heavy, and the rugby knowledge of the team is getting better. Every year we have about three weeks to prepare and the commitment was better from the kids, and that created a sense of trust within the team.”

Kluempers said players and coaches needed to get over the division between teams in the area. He brought in coaches from a variety of HS teams (Kluempers himself is the coach of St. Thomas Aquinas), and “I told them the Heart needed them. Once we got that we got more players from different teams. The old complaint that the Heart of America team was all STA and KC Jr. Blues was because those were the players that came out. This year we had a more diverse pool of players, and they realized that the guys from other teams aren’t jerks, they’re rugby players just like them.”

In the end, the old camaraderie of playing on a rugby field together brought the team closer, and allowed them to succeed.

Up front HOA was extremely strong, with James McDonough (KC Jr. Blues), David Mershon (KC Jr. Blues), and Ryan Russell (Blue Valley) a powerful front row unit. Flankers Will Sims and Antonio Jablonski were key defensive ingredients, with scrumhalf Matt Edelman, center Kellen Schockley, wing Sam Tanner, and Sam Chapman (all KC Jr. Blues) the pick of the backs.

“We competed well in the final and we had our opportunities,” said Kluempers. “Utah was a very good team and really punished little mistakes we’d make, like missing touch. The players learned you can’t get away with that. At the breakdown we were tough as nails, but Utah was better in the line outs. Overall I was pour of how we came together and played as a team.”

The diversity Kluempers talked about was more in evidence on the JV team, where scrumhalf Cole Winn (Cougar NW), lock Ring Deng (Park Hill South), Trace Tyrrell from St. Thomas Aquinas, and Sam Long from Blue Valley. all played well.