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Herriman, East to Face Off in Utah School Final

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Herriman, East to Face Off in Utah School Final

Herriman had to work for it. Andrea Syddall photo.

Herriman and East HS will meet in the Utah Youth Rugby school final next week after both won semifinals over the weekend.

These two teams met in the regular season on April 8 with East pulling out a 29-27 victory, so the final promises to be hotly contested.

Herriman 17 Olympus 14

In a game that was closer than many expected, Herriman got a late try from Josiah Dunn to avoid the upset.

 The teams had met earlier this season in a game where Olympus led at halftime and Herriman stormed back to win it late. Both teams came in with different styles and trajectories. Olympus is a senior-laden team with experience and some quality leaders that plays sound, mistake-free rugby and forces opponents to do the same.  Herriman is a young team, starting one freshman (more on him in a minute) and two sophomores to balance their four seniors. They have been a bit up-and-down this season, making uncharacteristic mental errors.

As Director Jeff Wilson put it, "this team is really good at rising to challenges that we create for ourselves, but we'd like them to learn that it's a lot easier to play the game without getting in our own way."

This game could best be split in to thirds, with Herriman starting strong and controlling the first third, Olympus the better squad through the middle third, and Herriman finally putting unforced errors to rest in the final section.

Herriman did start well and had the balance of possession and territory and nearly scored in the first minute before being turned over near the tryline. That was a bit of a harbinger of how the game would go for the Mustangs. Still they kept the pressure on, countered off a kick, got a penalty, and got their maul going. Olympus attempted to stop the drive by backing off and not contesting, but two forwards remained engaged, allowing the maul to continue, and that freshman we mentioned, No. 8 MacRae Parker, was over for the try.

Olympus got a chance off of the restart with a Herriman obstruction penalty, but Grundy got the ball back with a big tackle. Herriman worked the ball back to midfield, but Olympus forced the ball carrier out of bounds, and Dison Brown had his first of many successful lineout takes—he was a difference-maker in the lineout all day for the Titans. 

With Olympus on the attack at midfield, Herriman's captain and tighthead prop Malosi Brown raced in to intercept a pass in the centers and was away. He was caught, of course, but the support was there and Parker recognized a gap out wide when Olympus were expecting a pick-and-go. The youngster called for the ball, got it, and was over in an outside channel to make it 10-0.

Heriman seemed to be caught repeatedly in the situation of facing a stiff breeze while inside their own half, but outside the 22. Kicking wasn't going to do too much, so they ran it, and then lost possession.

When they did kick, Cole Nugent returned it with interest and that run set up a try for Olympus, making it 10-7.

Herriman had some chances after that, and so did Olympucs. But mistakes, penalties, and getting tackled into touch made it tough to string sequences together. Herriman ended up on defense a lot, but their D held.

At the beginning of the second half Olympus ran a weakside move and kept going through a missed tackle. Dunn finally raced in to make the tackle, and now it was Olympus's turn to lose the ball in scoring position. Finally, though, a muffed Herriman lineout led to Olympus cutting through the middle to score under the posts. Olympus 14 Herriman 10.

Chances came and went. Herriman started to get the run of play a bit more, but they were too frantic. A prime chance to get ahead after a big run from lock Jaron Watson was symied by a knock-on after a quick tap. Another quick tap came to nothing because of a bad pass. The Mustangs didn't like playing from behind and were showing it.

With seven minutes to go and time getting short on Herriman's comeback attempt, they finally did what they had failed to do for most of the game—be patient and work the ball through phases.  The series began with a timely turnover forced by reserve prop Bryce Baddell; Herriman kept the ball and got some good go-forward from Heston Egelund. The ball was spun out to the backline and Olympus was penalized for an intentional knock-on. Dunn showed some cheek on the tap, feigning setting up a forward pod before suddenly turning and tapping to catch the defense off guard. Dunn was through for the try and his conversion was good too.

Olympus looked to reply. They ran through 21 phases well past the hooter, but Herriman made 21 tackles and Olympus had made almost no ground. Finally the ball was lost forward and Herriman had held on against a very good Olympus team.

It wasn't beautiful, but it was gritty, and Herriman is in the final.

East HS vs Mountain Ridge

East HS kept up their outstanding run with a 54-22 defeat of Mountain Ridge. This was the 99th game in East HS Varsity Rugby history, and a special one as it took them to the state final.

"Nothing is guaranteed and our message to the players all week leading up to the Mountain Ridge semifinal game was to prepare just the same as we do for every other match," said Head Coach Robert Kingsford. "Credit to Mountain Ridge for getting after us, especially on the offensive side."

JJ Fredrick had an outstanding performance, scoring three tries on the day, one on a massive individual effort and two others hustle plays as he ran in support of big charges from forwards Fatusama Mapa and Papa Matelau.

For his part, Matelau scored two tries of his own and continued his form as a physical presence in every game he plays. Junior flanker Sam Tuai scored two tries back-to-back, and flyhalf Rex Bateman opened the scoring with a nicely-taken run. His older brother Jack Bateman was perfect on the day going 8-for-8 for conversions.

"It was a great team effort by everyone," said Kingsford. There are guys that aren’t mentioned that bring a great effort week to week and are steady for us on match day and they are a huge part of our success."

Looking ahead to the final, Kingsford knows that the earlier victory over Herriman is no predictor of success. 

"We have been at this now for 11 years as a program and each time you get a chance to play Herriman you want to get up for that game," Kingsford said. "In 2019, we played them three times and we lost all three matches by a total of 11 points. In 2021 we lost by three points. We have been knocking at the door for a little bit now. This year when we won the match at their place, it was awesome. Our focus has been to play the schedule in front of us week by week and we have played one of the most challenging schedules out there. We feel that has prepared us for this moment. It is never easy beating a team two times, but we are excited for the opportunity to go against another quality opponent."