The Southern California HS Club playoffs started this past weekend, with Santa Monica defeating Back Bay 36-12, Belmont Shore edging Fallbrook 36-25, and the San Diego Mustangs shutting down ICEF 22-3.
Hawaiian Gardens defeated Arroyo Grande, although no official score has been reported.
The SD Mustang backline did well despite being physically beat up. With both starting centers out injured, Head Coach Matty Sandoval put the task of controlling the match on the forwards, asking the backline to “just tackle.”
The Mustangs scored first, 15 minutes into the match, when flanker Alec Barton caught ICEF napping on a penalty, and while the coaches were calling for a kick for goal, he ran in the try. Alec Mills hit the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The two teams slogged it out for another 20 scoreless minutes until Mills put over a penalty kick just before halftime to put the Mustangs up 10-0.
In the second half, ICEF made some inroads, and actually breached the tryline. However, the swarming Mustang Forwards wrapped the ballcarrier and held the ball up.
ICEF did get three back a few minutes later from a penalty, but on the restart, the Mustangs forced ICEF into touch, won the lineout, and picked and jammed their way in with lock Grant McGahey and prop Aaron Mitchell getting the hard yards. Cal Poly-bound prop Joey Kuperman scored the try for a 15-3 .
More pick-and-jams and some big gallops from Mustang captain and No. 8 Drew Gaffney, with lock Jacob Neeley helping also, put the Mustangs on the front foot. Mitchell would make it two tries for the props. Mills hit the kick to finish the scoring at 22-3.
Two days prior, the Mustangs combined with Poway to play visiting Napier (New Zealand) Boys High School in a combined friendly that saw the Mustangs employ the entire squad in the first half, while Poway and some Mustangs went in during the second half. The two San Diego squads got to see first-hand the intelligent play of boys raised in a rugby culture.
The enrollment at Napier is about 1200, and an estimated 800 play rugby. The traveling squad (a mixture of 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-teamers) never broke down, kicked flawlessly and frequently, and never missed an opportunity to take a penalty kick, even from some prodigious distances. The Napier backline communicated constantly throughout the match, and was never on the wrong end of a numbers matchup.
The lessons rubbed off on the Mustangs, who against ICEF exceeded their season high in penalty kicks, and punted with greater frequency and to great effect. The somewhat ragtag Mustang’s backline kept it together, shouting instructions, and preventing any ICEF breakaways on the outside.
That was in part thanks to Michael "The Vortex" Cahill, moved from wing to center despite being quite small, and Alex Lindsay.
Cahill is called "The Vortex" because he tackles any opponent, regardless of size.
The Mustangs, who hope to have their star center pairing back this coming week, will host Belmont Shore in the SCYRA semis, while Hawaiian Gardens visits Santa Monica.