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New HS Team Marvin Ridge Wins North Carolina Single-School Title

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New HS Team Marvin Ridge Wins North Carolina Single-School Title

Marvin Ridge scores in the final.

Marvin Ridge defeated Hough 27-5 to win North Carolina's single-school championship, capping off a season in a battle of two potent offenses and two strong defenses.

Statistically speaking, Hough had the better of Marvin Ridge in points scored (266 to 243) and points allowed (29 to 63) over the six season games and the semifinals. But that's why they play the game. Marvin Ridge, four months old, capped off a three-fer championship, taking the Middle School, JV, and now Varsity state championship.

Formed out of a youth program that was getting older, the Marvin Ridge team was skilled and knowledgeable among its younger players, and athletic and dynamic among the new, upperlcassmen recruits. They had developed a unified team culture and ended up running the table, going 8-0.

"We’re absolutely delighted," said captain Finlay Mitchell. "The coaches set our culture and values, and the more experienced players like me, Jake Schumacher, Easton Yancey, and Hayden Mullens are given the responsibility to lead much of the practices. I think this really helped our brand new players. About a third of our roster had never picked up a rugby ball prior to November."

With the younger players actually teaching the older players, the team quickly embraced its egalitarian approach.

The final is was enjoyed by a large crowd in perfect conditions. Marvin Ridge started with the clear intention of putting Hough under pressure. The Huskies had allowed only five tries over the entire season, and Marvin Ridge knew they had to score early.

“We’re well aware of how potent Hough’s attack has been this season so we worked hard on our connection, defensive line speed, and communication in practice,” said co-captain Easton Yancey.

Much of the first 10 minutes was played in the Hough half with both sides threatening line breaks and defending well. Finally, Marvin Ridge got a kickable penalty, opted for the posts, and Cameron Mitchell slotted the kick.

From Hough’s restart, Finlay Mitchell carried strongly then popped a smart kicked under pressure for fellow center Jake Schumacher to chase down. That he did, outrunning three Hough defenders to dive on the ball for the first try of the game. Cameron Mitchell made the tricky conversion and it was 10-0 after 12 minutes, exactly the start Marvin Ridge wanted.

Hough probed but some solid tackling Eversole, Rawls, and Perez, and counter-rucking from Blackmer, McFarland, and O'Connor kept the Huskies away from paydirt.

Instead, it was Marvin Ridge that scored next. Sustained pressure with carries from Aman and Schumacher got them down into Hough territory, and when the Huskies were penalized, Cameron Mitchell stepped up to garner the three points.

This was a big mental win for the team, said flanker Hayden Mullens. It put his side up more than two scores, but also, to get points after denying Hough just kept the pressure on.

Both teams had opportunities as the first half drew to a close. Hough’s quick-thinking Zach Colson almost caught Marvin flat footed a couple of times and Marvin repeatedly hammered the Hough line. Neither was able to score, however, and it remained 13-0 at the break.

Clearly the next score was going to be important—certainly Hough had to get it to stay in tough, and they did. Kuebler and Colson directed their team well and eventually freshman Kai Campbell powered over to inch the Huskies closer at 13-5.

Marvin’s brought on some impact finishers and the work of sophomores Aidan McFarland and Emmanuel Jones and seniors Christian Lapenna, Marcos Abebe, and Gavin Collins made a huge difference. Jones, a powerful prop, was particularly influential with his strong carrying.

Late in the game Schumacher forced a turnover inside the Hough 22 and quick hands by the Marvin Ridge allowed Troy Blackmer to cut a line through and score under the posts. Cameron Mitchell converted to make it 20-5 Marvin.

Marvin closed out the game when scrumhalf Ethan Hurwitz spotted tired defenders and arched around to score under the posts. Cameron Mitchell finished off a 5-for-5 night with the boot and Marvin had won 27-5.

Marvin Ridge had almost doubled Hough's points-against total for the season, playing patiently when needed and also defending brilliantly.

“The game was physically very demanding but played in a great spirit," said Marvin Ridge No. 8 Nate Rawls. "The vast majority of us play together at Charlotte Cardinals but we had to put our friendships aside for 70 minutes”.

“The boys delivered a solid 70-minute performance tonight and we thoroughly deserved our win," said Finlay Mitchell. "Total respect to Hough for a great season and their never-say-die attitude tonight.” 

It was a storybook ending for a team that had only just formed. Marvin Head Coach Alan Mitchell knew he had players who could play, but this was more than he'd expected. 

”We’ve improved every week this season," said Mitchell. "It feels really rewarding to have introduced rugby to so many new players and their families. They’ve fallen in love with the game so we’re excited to grow our program and hopefully sustain this success.”