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HS Boys 2015-16 Awards

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HS Boys 2015-16 Awards

Dan Bandoni photo.

It's time to finish recognizing the thrilling 2015-16 Boys HS rugby season.

With the major select-side events done, we can finalize our picks and note. We're probably missed someone or something - sorry, there's just too much out there! But we've done our best. We have already picked our player of the season, and spoke to our pick for best forward earlier, so we've got links to those articles.

Here are more of our picks:

Team of the Year: Gonzaga. 

It's not because Gonzaga won the Boys HS Rugby National Championships that they get this award, but because, in getting there, the Eagles go in search of the toughest competition. It's not enough to win their local competition; they go in search of more. Sure, not everyone can afford a tour to Spain, but they can look for difficult opponents nearby, and Gonzaga did that, playing West End, Royal Irish, Doylestown, Cumberland Valley, Xavier, Fort Hunt, St. Edward, St. Ignatius ... that's a lot of meat on their plate.

Honorable Mentions? Mira Costa, for a similar reason - they just kept playing and kept looking for challenges, even reconvening for Nationals even though their regular season ended in February. La Costa Canyon is another one we had in mind, as well as Xavier HS, St. Edward, Danville, Granite Bay, Kahuku, Penn, and, of course, Royal Irish.  


7s Team of the Year: Maryland Exiles/DMV

These guys take their 7s seriously, and they travel to compete and win. Vegas, Philly, Surfside ... they keep doing it.


Youth-to-Varsity Program of the Year: Fishers HS

This Indianapolis program not only produces young players who grow up loving the game, and they not only produce young players who made up the Rugby Indiana DI state champions. They also produced young players who helped out some other well-known and well-respected HS programs in central Indiana. 


Player of the Year: Keanu Andrade, Danville

Forward of the Year: Patrick Hesse, Gonzaga. See more on Hesse here and here


Breakout Players: Joe Lefevre, Chadi Abdalla, Jon Rogers, Malik Fisher, Luke Persanis, Halleluiah Tiauli, Desi Streater, David Hannon, Chase Schore Haskin, Karem Odeh, Hunter Breit, Charlie van Vliet, Griffin Maat, Campbell Robinson, Obie Cruz,  Jagger Madeiros, Patrick Conway, Nafitalai Maafu, Devin Short, Jayden Demmy.

Honorable Mention Top Players: Owen Duvall, Roddy Hamilton, Bailey Abercombie, Ruben de Haas, Sam Cusano, Sean Lumkong, Brendan Curle, David Ainu’u, Kevin Saunders, Xavier Triplett, Justin Johnson, Jack Bradfield, Zach Heisterkamp, Andrew Baldado, Marcos Young, Josh Warnock, Dmontae Noble, Leki Fotu, Will Vakalahi, LJ Koi-Larbi, Christian Dyer, Reid Brandt, Luke Bienstock, Roddy Hamilton, Jonas Petrakopoulos, Mica Matua, Bronson Teles.

Players to Watch: Kyle Lazera, Pono Kayoshi, Joe Rusert-Cuddy, Bailey Wilson, Jack Wendling, Kai Carlberg, Tyren Al-Jiboori, Will Lyke, Justus Tavai, 

Gamebreakers: See our Gamebreakers columns for players who got special recognition throughout the season.

EIRA Players of the Week: We're going to change this to "Player Spotlight" so we can honor more players. But here's where you can find our EIRA Players of the Week from the past season.


Breakout Team: Fort Hunt

Honorable Mention Breakout Teams: Bayou Hurricanes, Fishers, Tampa Krewe, Pelham HS, Palmer HS Terrors, Bishop England, Fairfield Pegasi, Sheboygan County Chargers, Rainier Highlanders, Coastal Dragons

Toughest League: NorCal Varsity Premier. 

The ongoing conventional wisdom could well be that the Indiana Super League is the toughest league, and maybe it is since it consists of four highly-ranked programs. But the newly-formed NorCal Premier included the #2 (by a point) single-school team in the nation, two of the top three HS clubs in the nation, another club that was almost as good, and then three more teams that would have been playoff contenders in many other leagues around the country. Winning a single game in this league is a major achievement. 


Issues of the Year: Lightning, referees, teams from youth

We talked about lightning and the issues surrounding planning for suspended games, but there are other stories, as well. One is referees - not that the referees are bad, or good, or indifferent; it's more that we continue to hear stories from HS teams and tournaments about the types of refs sent to officiate high school games. Sometimes those stories are positive - the local referee society sent the best refs available and they did a great job, and the players appreciated it. Sometimes it's the opposite - the high school games are lowest on the totem pole, and the referee society sends no one, or a ref who is too inexperienced or not fast enough to keep up.

It's a case of assessing what the quality of the game is. Some high school games are going to be faster, and more difficult to referee than some men's club games. Some referee societies understand this; some are getting there.

And our third listed story is about youth. We are seeing more and more high school teams start at the youth level. It's about coaches coaching their kids are U8 or even younger, and seeing the program grow with time, and with the players getting older. It's an investment of perhaps seven or eight years to get to a high school-level team, but the products are exactly what we want at the upper levels - players who have grown up with the game, read it well, and are skilled.