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SoCal Latest: Belmont Shore, SOC Win Close Games

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SoCal Latest: Belmont Shore, SOC Win Close Games

Always a close one between SOC Raptors and Thunder Rugby.

Belmont Shore is now alone atop the Southern California HS Club standings after a 33-26 defeat of the San Diego Mustangs.

"Good contest," said Mustangs Head Coach MAtty Sandoval. "The better team won; [Belmont Shore] is better than last year, probably the best team in the country. We played well."

"Good game played by both sides," chimed in Belmont Shore Head Coach Johnny Pua. "Credit to SD Mustangs. Their defensive line speed put us on the back foot majority of the game but we adjusted and applied pressure back at them with counter kicking."

Wing Ryan Curtis was key in those kicks, and flyhalf Lenny Ibarra tested the Mustangs with the boot also, putting them under pressure.

Inside center Josiah Apisala was a hard man in carrying the ball into the San Diego defense. His powerful runs made sure the Mustangs had to be very careful about the interior backine channels.

Up front, No. 8 Princeton Tusa was hugely impactful with his carries also, and he unleashed an interception and 80-meter gallop for a try that turned momentum in the first half. And he was backed up by Max Amasio who is a ferocious presence with the ball in hand—Pua calls him a "wrecking ball." 

Tusa's older brother Phoenix was a monster ond defense and flanker Isaac Rodriguez worked unceasingly on the defensive side and he did well also to disrupt and steal San Diego lineouts.

"Overall, this was outstanding rugby played by both teams and honestly the top two competitive teams in Socal. Southern California will be well represented at Nationals," said Pua.

SOC Raptors 27 Thunder Rugby 26

In a National Championship play-in, the SOC Raptors just barely got by Thunder Rugby 27-26. Lock Cadence Ward, flanker Waylon Davis, and the halfback combo of Jack Munro and Keegan Hannon all scored tries for the Raptors. Hannon added two conversions and a penalty.

The game started with the Raptors controlling territory and possession, but lost the ball ovee the goalline. This would be part of the game's story, as the Raptors had several clear try-scoring chances that they didn't finish.

The remainder of the half was SOC attacking and Thunder defending doggedly. Thunder eventually took the lead after the Raptors kept getting penalized and Thunder mauled the ball over. With five minutes left in the first half penalties conceded by the Thunder saw the Raptors get a lineout five meters out and mauled it. Stipped just short, the Raptors got over with Ward (making his first start for the SOC 1st team) picking up and diving over.

Thunder opened the second half with a long-range try to take the lead 14-7. The teams continued to trade scored. Davis capped off a series of phases only for Thundert to once again punish SOC indiscipline to make it 19-12.

The Raptors took control of the game for the next 10 minutes or so, getting better continuity and seeing Hannonand Munro score.

Thunder responded off the second restart and they bashed it over to take a 26-24 lead.

From the next restart Thunder controlled the ball, but Hannon made a crucial steal to get the ball back with a minute left. He tapped quickly on the penalty called, Blake Allen was stopped just short, and when Thunder were penalized again, Hannon put the kick over to win the game.

Hannon was superb all day, managing the game and playing strong defense. Centers Allen and Jake Bower were effective on defense and as the game progressed started to find holes in the Thunder defense. Fullback Thomas Hartanof was a threat every time he touched the ball while  Clarence Chaney, Colin Donnely, and Waylon Davis were huge in defense among the forwards.

"Raptors and Thunder have played four games in three years; every game was settled on the last play of the game," said SOC Head Coach Sam McMillan. "We have so much respect for Josh Williams and his team, yes the rivalry is on the field, but great friends off it."

SoCal HS Club W L T PF PA BT BL Points
Belmont Shore 4 0 0 146 55 4 0 15
San Diego Mustangs 3 1 0 119 59 3 1 14
Back Bay 2 1 0 80 86 2 0 10
South OC Raptors 2 2 0 143 95 2 1 6
Thunder Rugby 1 3 0 107 109 2 1 5