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Exiles Victorious In Tight Maryland Playoffs

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Exiles Victorious In Tight Maryland Playoffs

It’s been tight all season in the Rugby Maryland HS club league, with the Maryland Exiles, West Carroll, and Howard County all in a virtual tie atop the standings.

This weekend’s playoffs decided a state winner—Maryland Exiles—but didn’t change the perception that these teams are all pretty strong.

Going into the final weekend of the season it looked like all three would finish up 5-1. Howard County, however were upset, dropping them to 3-2, with Baltimore Poly coming in at 3-2 as well. Still, with every team having lost a game, it was clear this would be pretty tight.

West Carroll, however, paid down a marker with a 34-0 defeat of Howard County. The Exiles, meanwhile struggled to beat Baltimore Poly 17-5.

West Carroll had begun the season with a win over Howard County, and Head Coach Brad rock wood said that victory kind of galvanized the team. Gavin Rouse scored the game-winner as time expired in that game, and he had a strong season. However, injuries—notable to center Wayne Tate and No. 8 Dimitri Berry—made this playoff game an uncertain proposition.

Howard County, led by Roman Johnsonbaugh and Jackson Holztman rebounded from that early loss, but were shut down in the semis.

In the final, West Carroll ran out to a 12-0 lead.

“This year’s team has tended to start games slow,” said Exiles Head Coach Dan Soso. “They’re great kids, and great at gutting it out after learning from mistakes.”

In this final, the Exiles were continually offside, and it took a little advice from the coach—basically, you’re not going to change the referee’s mind so back up a little—to turn things around.

“Each referee has things they really watch,” Soso said. “We talked about how we need to read the referee. It was going to take all of that to confront a really strong, well-coached West Carroll team.”

The Exiles, too, have been hit with injuries but the younger players coming up have stepped into key roles and contributed. Healthy and ready to lead was Noah Lucas, a four-year starter who energized the Exiles in the second half.

“You kind of think, ‘where am I going to get another kid like him/‘“ said Soso. “He’s a great player, great student, and he works enormously hard.”

The Exiles pulled it together, shut down West Carroll and scored two tries to emerge 14-12 winners and state champions.

“I am really, really proud of this team,” said Soso. “West Carroll is very tough, and it came down to the final play.”