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JMU's Katz - Focus is Everything

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JMU's Katz - Focus is Everything

Katz working his way through contact against Notre Dame College in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.

It's kind of hard to pin down James Madison University, as the program bounces between 7s and 15s this season, but somehow we have to do it, and somehow the players have to do it, too.

"It definitely keeps us on our feet," said JMU prop Mo Katz. "We have a core group that moves between 15s and 7s, and they've been playing together for three or four years. So as a core we play together.

"The thing is, we play differently in 7s than in 15s," added Katz. "In 7s we're putting the ball through the hands and finding the player in space. In 15s, you have to do more work in the trenches to create the space first," said Katz. "For me, it's a bit of an adjustment just that I am going into contact in 7s against guys playing prop who might be a back, but in 15s I am going into contact with regular forwards, and it's very different."

Katz is one of that core, a prop who can run and pass and play in the open field in 7s without any trouble at all. He's a worker, a grafter, and a central figure in the JMU effort. But there are more,  including Matt Narzikul and Chris Marcelin. Younger players such as flyhalf Federico Meersohn and Michael Barry have emerged as able to carry the load.

"We've been able to bring in younger guys who have played before - Michael Barry played at Gonzaga - and it makes a difference," said Katz.

Katz himself started playing rugby after his brother, Kevin suggested he go out. Mo had visited Kevin at JMU before he arrived as a freshman, and met then-JMU captain Chris Kunkel, who was influential in making Katz the younger so important to the JMU team. The Engineering major was part of the team that won the USA Rugby DII College 7s Championships last spring, something that meant different things to different people.

To the veterans, it was a last charge before they graduates. For others it was a chance to say, yes, we won a national championship. For others, it was just another challenge.

"Winning a DII national championship just told us that when we moved to DI we needed to step it up even more, 7s and 15s," said Katz.

And so they have. JMU won the Keystone Conference championship despite losing once in the regular season, by finishing strong in the playoffs. They are looking to do the same now in the DIAA playoffs as they face Harvard.

"With all the shifting between 7s and 15s, we have to focus on what we're doing right now," said Katz. "And right now, we've got a 15s playoff game against Harvard, so we've been focusing everything on that game and playing well. We know we've got our coach, Mark Lambourne, in our corner getting us ready, and we know how to focus on what we have in front of us."