The Oceanside Hurricanes, champions of Southern California, are slotted to take on Sierra Foothills, second seed out of Northern California, in Irving, Texas this weekend for the DIII round of 16.
Both teams went undefeated in their regular season play. Oceanside handily took SoCal with the closest game coming against Belmont Shore, 39-19. 20 points is a pittance compared to the final from the match with Oxy Olde Boys, in which Oceanside scored 80 points while holding the Old Boys to nil. Sierra Foothills’ largest margin of victory came against Sacramento Blackhawks, 64-7.
“Our forwards have been the catalyst for the backs to score,” Dave Feingold, head coach of Sierra Foothills, said.
The top scoring players on Sierra Foothills includes flyhalf and conversion kicker Mike Dopson. According to Feingold, Dopson is a very gifted, seasoned athlete. The No. 8, Nate McGuire, was referred to as a strong runner who keeps excellent possession of the ball. Another back row player, Tyler Gagon, while new to the team, is excellent at retaining the ball. Ciaran Mahoney, outside center, has also put up his fair share of points for Sierra Foothills. Wing John Smith has great speed on the outside. “Not too many people can catch him,” said Feingold.
Sierra Foothills is making its first appearance at Nationals this season, though the team feels it should have reached the postseason last year.
“There were some scheduling issues, and we had qualified for playoffs last year, and the rug was essentially pulled out from underneath us,” said Feingold. “It was a tough, bitter pill to swallow. My guys work hard. They deserve to be where they are today.”
Sierra Foothills is in only its second season as a DIII side after playing at-large as a social side. This season they registered an astounding 54 players and formed a B-side for the season.
“Numbers are crazy,” said Feingold. “I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished. I think rugby has really developed, become more structured and better regulated. Rugby has grown exponentially.”