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EIRA Player Spotlight - Jack Carso Takes the Mark

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EIRA Player Spotlight - Jack Carso Takes the Mark

Jack Carso likes to run. Karen Drinkwater photo.

The concept of the Fair Catch is a strong one in all of the world’s football games.

While two of those sports - Canadian Football and Rugby League Football - have now abolished the practice, which dates back to the earliest incarnations of the game that eventually also spawned Gaelic Football, Aussie Rules, Soccer, Rugby Union, and American Football, the idea that when you catch a ball on the fly under certain circumstances, you get a free go - a kick, usually - is ingrained in these games.

And so it is in Rugby Union, where, if you catch a kicked ball on the fly in your own 22, you can call for the mark, and get a free kick. Young players in the USA don’t do it very often, but if you’re under pressure, it’s a great way to relieve that pressure. You just have to be aware of when to use the rule.

Jack Carso knew. The Saint Mary’s wing called for the mark in the final moments against Cal, and his decision pretty much won the game for the Gaels. 

The play contained some classic elements of taking the mark - a ball that was clearly going to be caught, and fairly easily; a catcher who didn’t have too many teammates nearby. But it also had some additional wrinkles. Carso actually wasn’t under much pressure (that factored into his decision), and while most of the time a player who calls for the mark kicks for touch, Carso didn’t, and had no intention of doing so.

The mark gives you a free kick - the player calling for the mark actually makes the bent arm signal referees use for a free kick. You can kick to yourself, just like in any free kick situation. Carso knew that.

“We talk a lot about taking the mark and when to do it,” said Carso, who started playing rugby in 8th grade for the Arlington Stallions in the Chicago area. “We had some problems last year with Life University and taking the mark correctly. So we all work on it. [Assistant Coach] Brendan O’Meara harps on it a lot. He wants to make sure he know the rules and the right circumstances.”

And that’s where this past Saturday’s play comes in. Carso saw that Russell Webb’s kick for the corner wasn’t actually going to do what Webb wanted. The kick itself was easy enough for Carso to catch, and in addition, there weren’t any Cal chasers. Carso knew he had time.

“The moment he kicked the ball I knew I was going to call for the mark and that I was going to quick-tap it,” he said. “While you’ve got to take a look at what’s around you, you can’t ten five or ten seconds to make your decision. You’ve got to know that you can take the chance. I knew I had some space, saw that I still had some space, quick-tapped, and started running.”

Carso caught Cal napping a bit. He burst through a couple of tackles, kept his legs pumping, and by the time he was on the ground, Cal was backpedaling into defense and his Saint Mary’s teammates were coming in support. A quick recycle and Holden Yungert found Mike McCarthy, and away the flyhalf went for a wild run deep into the Cal 22.

“Mikey made a great play,” said Carso. “But it’s all part of teammates understanding the decision you’ve made and supporting you. I think Vili [Helu] was first over the top after Mike was tackled, and that allowed us to win the ball and get it out to score.”

Aaron Matthews scored the game-winning try, but it was a try built by the entire team. Saint Mary's won 27-24

And it all started with knowing how to use a law not many use, and how to read a situation. And it all started with a head-up player using his head.

Jack Carso is our Eagle Impact Rugby Academy Player Spotlight.