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Raptors Take Tennessee Over 901

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Raptors Take Tennessee Over 901

Game MVP Max Orefice is on the ball at the tackle, forcing a penalty.

Raptors Rugby defeated 901 41-12 to snap up the Tennessee Boys HS state title Saturday.

The game started, as it always does between these two sides, with plenty of hard tackles and back-and-forth play before junior hooker David Krivacka punched through after a long passage of play. The Raptors took the ensuing restart straight down the pitch and senior captain Max Orefice scored on a tap-and-go from five meters out. From tough angles, sophomore flyhalf Jake Orefice converted both early tries to make it 14-0 Raptors.

Max Orefice moved from flanker to No. 8 after an injury earlier in the week to sophomore starter Grant Webber.

As is true to their standard, 901 Rugby did not let down and put a try on the board through sophomore scrumhalf Parker Weatherly, cutting the lead to 14-5. The next ten minutes was back-and-forth before the Raptors took control of the match. Tries from sophomore flankers Jake Roberts and Andrew Ryan, with one Jake Orefice conversion, make it a commanding 26-5 lead at halftime.

The second half started like the first with plenty of action both ways and big kicks for territory from the Raptors' Max Orefice and 901's Colby Shelton. Raptors’ sophomore winger Barron Lankford, who has been a force all season, opened the second half with a powerful 50-meter run, touching down left of the posts. With Jake Orefice out on a blood-sub, older brother Max made it worth seven points with a dropkick.

This converted try opened the game up even more for the Raptors as 901 was chasing the score and struggled to push through the Raptor defense. Stout defense by junior forwards Owen Black, Sarp Kundakci, and Jasper Quesenberry, led to two length-of-the-pitch tries by junior center Eli Bauman and sophomore Wyatt Appleton. 901 Rugby would not give in though, as Weatherly dotted down again to pick up his second try. Colby Shelton converted. Max Orefice completed the scoring with a 25-meter penalty kick to cap a game MVP performance.

Orefice, along with senior fullback Caleb Ebert will attend Lindenwood University in the fall. Senior winger Tanner Loebsack will play at the University of Alabama and lock Drew Cook will be playing at MTSU.

"This team had a unique willpower that drove them," said Raptors Head Coach Dan Griff. "At no point, in any match, did they feel they were not going to win, no matter how close or how late it was in the match. For this one specifically, they knew that this was their time. The challenge for them was to not let up, to use the emotional energy on defense and not allow 901 back into the match. The intent was to get up on them early and keep them there, which is what they did."

The future is bright for Raptor Rugby with 31 of the points scored in the final coming from underclassmen. The Raptors finished the season 10-2 sweeping the table in Tennessee with their only two losses coming against #7 Pendleton Rugby 10-7 and #18 Charlotte Tigers 15-10.