Washington Boys Thunder to GNC Title
Washington Boys Thunder to GNC Title
A Washington Boys all-star team that wasn't exactly highly-regarded, upset Southern California 27-14 to win the Great Northwest Challenge Sunday in Portland, Ore.
Washington worked their way through a tough pool on Saturday, beating Northern California 22-10 and Hawaii 12-5 thanks to some outstanding defense, and excellent work in the breakdown. On Sunday, they slammed Oregon in the semifinals, winning 50-0, and then shook up Southern California in the championship match.
SoCal had done pretty well, themselves, having swept their pool of Oregon and Montana, and then handing Northern California a shocking 36-0 defeat. Southern California's precision in their passing and in their lineout, where Northern California had some excellent and very tall jumpers, was the difference.
In the final, Washington turned the ball over in a lineout, pushed ahead with a penalty, and then slammed the ball over with their forwards. Lui Sitama (Budd Bay) scored that try and it showed the Griffins that getting through the Loggers would be a tough proposition. The Griffins scored through Sifa Mamma (Los Angeles, with Alex Walsh (Santa Monica) kicking the conversion. But Washington had a kicker, too, and Johnny Reid (Chuckanut) was just about perfect in the final. He converted the first try and then added a penalty to make it 10-7. Then Patrick Condon of Chuckanut went on a long, rumbling', stumbling' run to pay dirt. Reid converted again to make it 17-7.
In the second half, Southern California repeatedly tested the Washington D, and eventually scored when No. 8 Jahlani Tavai of Mira Costa broke a couple of tackles and surged over. Walsh was good with the kick to make it 17-14 with time winding down. But Washington controlled the final minutes. They used Reid to kick for territory and their forwards, led by Brian Nault (Shelton) hammered the ball home. Reid made a big break late in the game and seemed away for the try. But he was corralled and while he passed off, SoCal seemed to have stopped it all. That's when the Washington pack went to work and took Aidan Maher of Wenatchee over. Reid would add another penalty just to be sure, and Washington won 27-14.
"We knew it was going to come down to mistakes," said SoCal Head Coach Jeff Bonnett. "And it did. We made a few mistakes and they didn't really make any. I don't think Washington dropped the ball in the back line once. They just played their system so well."
Washington was also difficult to tackle, especially in their outside backs, who weren't burners, but were tenacious.
"I don't know if I could single out any one player, I'd have to mention 47," said Washington Head Coach Pete Sullivan. "They played their pattern all the time. We knew we didn't have the athleticism and the size that they had, but we knew we could bring physicality and we could bring structure. The coaches did a great job scouting and bringing in a game plan, and both JV and Varsity bought into it. Playing against great competition like Northern Cal, Southern Cal, Oregon, and Hawaii, that's what we wanted to do. I couldn't be prouder of a blue-collar bunch of kids who said 'this is it, if we follow this game plan we will have success.'"
The Washington team kept defending and were physical and aggressive. They knew when to contest rucks and when to spread out. And when they started to run the phases, no team could hang with them.
Reid was excellent as a field general and as a kicker. Dom Lindstrom of Kent played very well against highly-regarded opponents, Maher epitomized the hard-nosed approach the team needed to bring, and Matt Brennan was just a grafter at flanker.
Washington also won the JV bracket for the 7th year in a row, with a team of not particularly big or imposing players that just played smart rugby and were skillful.
Varsity Final Scoreline
Tries: Sitima, Condon, Maher
Convs: Reid 3
Pens: Reid 2
Southern California 14
Tries: Mamma, Tavai
Convs: Walsh 2