Portland Pumas Win Oregon Single-School
Portland Pumas Win Oregon Single-School
After years of Union dominating the Oregon single-school picture, there's a new champion in town, as the Portland Pumas defeated Newberg 34-10 in this past weekend's final to take the state championship.
Newberg defeated Union 24-14 May 13 to make the final, while Portland defeated Battle Ground 31-10.
The championship was especially gratifying for Pumas Head Coach Gerard Schneider.
"It was a good season for us and for all the Oregon varsity teams, it's a competitive division," said Schneider. "We started the year with three returning players, but recruited a stellar cast of first-year players. Those three returners are all seniors and about half our first-year players were juniors and seniors, which gave us enough size to play with anyone. The challenge was to learn enough rugby in our six-game regular season to be able to compete for a championship."
Ld by those returners - - Gerod Latham, Kirt Achterman, and Sean Meehan - the Pumas faced off with a very good Reynolds team in their opening game. It was a penalty-fest as the Pumas learned the laws. But as the game progressed, they figured things out and came back to tie the game.
"The first few weeks we worked on everything from tackling to scrums but eventually our practices were mostly various games, working on offloading and scanning space," said Schneider. "We really don't do anything too complicated, but we'll recycle quickly at rucks and keep the ball alive a little bit longer than the defense can keep its shape, and then we have enough power to run over you or speed to run around."
Pumas co-head coach Geoff Latham said the Pumas are a second-half team, and Schneider agreed.
"As a game goes on defenses tire and we're just too strong and too quick to not play great defense against," he said. "Our center pairing of Sean Meehan and Cristian Lahti really bring a power running game that was complemented by the outside wing play of Greg Curtis, Kitan Oladapo, and Michael Abraham."
Achterman is the captain and an all-state player, but Schneider said they all have that potential, if they keep playing.
In loose play the Pumas forwards were the same - athletic, good runners, improving passers. First-year players Ricky White and Andrew Myers both did very well, especially on defense. Travis Mackay is an Oregon State football commit who brought a size and power rare in high school rugby. Jordan Stevens joined the team midway through the season and has enormous potential.
"He's a great tackler and listens and corrects like a pro," said Schneider. "I think he ran sideways too far across the field once in his first game, fixed it, and hasn't done it since."
Stevens was injured and couldn't play in the final, and Abraham was ill. They were sorely missed, but the rest of th team stepped up.
As for that championships game, Newberg was no easy opponent, and the teams were tied 10-10 at the break. Newberg did a good job of holding up Portland players in the tackle, and that was a new thing for the Pumas to do with. They limited the Puma offloads and tackled well - putting their fullback into the defensive line and daring Portland to kick.
Eventually, the Pumas did indeed kick, and that started to open up some space. Portland is a second-half team, as their coaches said, and they started to pull away.
"We played well on Saturday but we might have played our best game against Union this year," said Schneider of his team's 31-20 regular-season victory over the defending champs. "With the Union success over the recent years that game had a championship feel to it and was great to watch. In that game and really all season, Gerod Latham has been outstanding as a captain and as a defender - we moved him from hooker to scrumhalf this year because of his rugby experience - and he's such a forward at heart he's always poaching, rucking and tackling maybe more than you'd like a scrumhalf to do but he's so effective it's like a one man wrecking crew."