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Woodlands Goes 2-0 on Tough SoCal Trip

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Woodlands Goes 2-0 on Tough SoCal Trip

Woodlands vs SOC Raptors (in blue) from Thursday night. Vasen Menon photo.

Texas Team The Woodlands (GRR #2) completed its short Southern California tour with a very impressive 2-0 showing, winning a close one over #1-ranked HS Club Belmont Shore and defeating #11 SOC Raptors in games on Tuesday and Thursday.

Belmont Shore

On Tuesday Woodlands clashed with Belmont Shore in a thrilling showdown at the St Anthony Sports Complex in Long Beach. The evening was filled with high-energy action, marked by bone-crunching collisions that defined the intensity of the match.

The game kicked off with Woodlands making an early statement as Zane Smith powered through tackles, on his way to the try zone to put his team on the scoreboard first.

However, Belmont Shore quickly responded with a try from close-range and led 7-5. Woodlands reclaimed the lead as Smith raced in from 18 meters out off a scrum move, and Neel Menon's conversion made it 12-7.

This game continued to go back and forth throughout the night. Belmont Shore tied it up only to see Woodlands retake the lead with Sebastian Infante's spectacular run down the wing. Menon added a penalty just before the break and it was 20-12 at halftime.

The second half saw Belmont Shore close the gap to 20-17, but Woodlands scored another try, this time when Menon's penalty goal attempt bounced off the uprights and Elijah Capiro raced in to touch it down.

Belmont Shore marshaled their forced and scored two tries, both converted, and took the lead 31-27 with time waning. Woodlands, however, would have the final say. Once again it was Smith doing the talking, as he ran in for his third try of the evening to win it 32-31 for the Texan tourists.

In his post-game address, Woodlands Head Coach Werner Marx commended his team for maintaining their intensity, disciplined execution of the game plan, and relentless effort throughout the 70 minutes of play.

Belmont Shore were gracious in defeat and gracious hosts in this astonishing match.

SOC Raptors

Buoyed by that result, Woodlands had a day to recover and then face an SOC Raptors team that finished 2nd in Tier 2 of the HS National Championships in 2023. The Raptors team also had a very good U16 squad and many of those players are now on the varsity side as they only had a handful of seniors in the lineup.

This was another entertaining and well-played game, played this time under the lights at Murrieta Valley High School.

The game kicked off with Woodlands making an early statement as hooker Mason Wilson powered over the tryline at the back of a well-executed maul. The teams surged back and forth from one end to the other, but couldn't punch it in until 23 minutes in when another Woodlands maul saw the Texans up 10-0.

About 12 minutes later, with halftime looming, Woodlands capitalized on a penalty and ran another lineout for Wilson to score his third. Menon converted and Woodlands led 17-0 at halftime.

The Raptors responded well and scored early-ish in the second half. But soon thereafter Ilen Menon sliced through a gap to touch down and his brother, Neel, converted for a 24-7 lead.

But after that Woodlands got a yellow card and SOC was able to make the man advantage work for them, scoring to inch closer at 24-14.

But as they had done all tour, Woodlands replied. With SOC now shorthanded thanks to a yellow card, Smith broke through and carried a defender over the line for his fourth try of the tour. Menon converted to make it 31-14 and as Ilen Menon once again ghosted through a seam and ran in for his second. Neel converted to end it 38-14.

For the SOC Raptors, this was a good lesson in discipline. While several players showed well, especially Clarence Chaney, who gave the Texans all kinds of problems, the Raptors gave up far too many chances to the tourists.

"We handled them well," said Head Coach Sam McMillan. "But we made too many mistakes and too many penalties. In skill and physicality we were up for it, but we need to clean our game up." 

Overall it was a massively impressive showing for Woodlands, which had taken on the defending HS Club national champs and GRR #1 and won on the road, and backed it up with a good win over a very challenging SOC side.

Coach Marx, said that he challenged his team with traveling to Southern California to find out if they are competitive with high performing teams. 

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to play two of the top teams in America and find out how we measure up," he added.