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June 26, 2013

Troy High and Troy Athens boys rugby program has best year in history

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Troy United boys rugby team celebrates with its Division 2 state championship trophy after beating Sparta High 34-5.

Troy United boys rugby coach Rob Anderson knew the Sparta High game plan for the Division 2 state championship May 25 in Holland.

“They had bigger guys, and I read an interview of the coach, and he said the strategy was to use his big guys and run us over,” Anderson remembered. “They just weren’t prepared for us. They were bigger, but we were better athletes.”

Sparta learned quickly that size alone wasn’t going to keep United — a combination of Troy High and Troy Athens athletes — from attaining its goal.

“On the opening kickoff, we just stopped them dead in their tracks. They kept on trying to run at us with their big guys, and we just stopped them,” Anderson said.

Sparta had trouble stopping United; the squad won 34-5, giving the program its first Michigan Youth Rugby Association Division 2 state championship.

United finished the year 8-1 overall and had its first winning season ever. This was also the first time Troy was in D-2. It had previously competed in D-3.

“We knew we had a good team coming in. I though we’d win D-3 if we had stayed there, but I wasn’t sure we would have this much success in D-2,” Anderson said. “I was so thrilled that our guys got to show their stuff. We played our best rugby in the playoffs and in the championship.”

Anderson added that he loves that it’s a united team, in more ways than one.

“They’re bitter rivals in many ways, but they come together. The other thing about rugby is that we have several guys that came out and don’t have any experience in any sport. We rely heavily on the football players and wrestlers, but there are guys without any sports experience and some have grown into great players. That makes me really proud,” Anderson said.

Anderson added that the addition of Louis Ricard, an exchange student from France, also helped.

“He had a lot of experience and helped us have discipline to run plays during a game because, at times, it’s too chaotic,” the coach said.

Jaleen Parker and Erik Soreide were also main contributors. Soreide was the MVP of the final with around 20 tackles.

Anderson called Parker “an extraordinary player.”

“I’ve never seen anyone with a will to win like he has,” the coach said. “Every team that plays us knows who he is. He’s just a force. He hits hard, he runs hard, and he plays through pain. He’s just the kind of guy you want on your team.”

Anderson also mentioned Christian Purnell and Ehron Enyedy as elusive backs.

Overall, the program expects 20 of 28 players back for next season, though Anderson said this team would be sorely missed.

“I get emotional thinking about it. I’m just thrilled to be associated with these guys. They worked really hard and got really close as a team. Every player on that team did everything they could,” he said. “My job is to get them all together, but it was their championship, and I was just very proud of them.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.