Kinder Park was the site of the Maryland Youth Rugby Festival over the weekend of July 27-28 as Green Hornets Rugby entertained 55 teams from all over Maryland for the sport’s youth state championships.
Severna Park played proud rugby and defended its home fields admirably with strong season-ending performances at the U7, U9, U11 and U13 levels in the tournament, which pitted teams against one another in 20-minute, seven-on-seven games known as rugby sevens, a faster and typically more high-scoring version of traditional 11-versus-11 rugby.
The U11’s highlighted the weekend for Severna Park as the Green Hornets capped an exceptional season by going 4-0-1 in the Championship Division to win the state championship. The Green Hornets U11 team of Calhan Cassidy, Noah Croghan, Lucy Davis, Coleman Eaton, Jackson Eaton, Alexander Endres, Dash Havens, Zach Hedges, Shamaree Johnson, Felicity Lyng, Thomas Lynn, Skylar Marshall, Ares Mason, Sam Matthews, Brooke Nagle, Grayson Robinson, Kaden Schurr, Rickai Torrence, Moe Utz, Zach Willard, Jeremy Zotterand played the Lutherville-Timonium Vipers to a 17-17 tie in the tournament’s opening game, then rattled off three victories to set up a rematch with Lutherville-Timonium in the final, which Severna Park won, 24-15.
U11 coach Brendan Nagle, who coached the team with Thomas Mason, said the Green Hornets excelled throughout the season, dropping only two games all summer and surging into the tournament before coming away with the state championship trophy.
“Every year they’ve been learning,” said Nagle. “They took a lot of new rules this year and learned them quickly. We had a lot of new players come in this year as well. Next year most of this championship team will be promoting to the U13 level, so this year was a good year to win it with them. Great bunch of kids, enjoy the sport, they’ve really enjoyed the game and being together as a group.”
The U9 Green Hornets—Callum Aird, Abi Almodovar-Vives, Rodney Anderson, Mikey Bodine, Cade Cobb, Jayden Cobbs, Lila Couslin, Elly Davis, McKayla Dewald, Heath Gardner, Will Gibson, Oliver Hines, Madeline Holquist, Isabelle Lynn, Ava Mastrodomenico, MJ Matthews, Thomas Matthews, Mason Rose, Kyle Schuller and Stuart Werner—likewise produced a stellar season, going undefeated all summer. With several families on summer vacation at the time of the Maryland Youth Rugby Festival, the U9’s joined forces with many of the U7’s for the tournament, as the U7 Green Hornets group of Henry Bailey, Landin Dewald, Brigid Endres, Charlotte Gibson, Kieran Gibson, Henry Hines, Noah Mack, Tighe O’Brien, Jackson Rausch and Elliott Wells also did not lose a game all season long, and the U7’s fortified the U9 roster to help the Green Hornets to a 4-0 championship run in the Festival Division.
Green Hornets Rugby commissioner Ryan O’Kane said the progress of the U7’s and U9’s over the course of the season was dramatic, a credit to the kids and their coaches.
“Teaching that age group is difficult, but [coaches] Kevin Gibson, James Mastrodomenico and Fitz Curran, what they did with the U7’s and U9’s, the other teams around the league didn’t know how to scrum, didn’t know how to do line-outs, they don’t do drop-kicks—our U7’s are doing these things. If these kids stick with it, this program is going to get stronger and better. These coaches just have done a great job.”
The Green Hornets U13s—Finn Ackerman, Bennan Aird, Brayden Albrecht, Alejandro Almodovar-Vives, Evan Campbell, Luke Cobb, Ryan Crowley, Zoey Evora, Gabbi Jurado, Sawyer Knapp, Chase Martin, Anna Mastrodomenico, Sahara Morano, Josh O’Donnell, Riordan O’Kane, Ryan O’Kane, Payton Ralston, Caleb Rassofsky, Avery Rose, Lily Schurr, Lincoln Scott, Michael Stone, Jake Towner and Kelley Utz—were the top U13 team in the state throughout the regular season. Severna Park suffered an upset loss to Ellicott City in the festival and ended up finishing in second in pool play of the U13 Championship Division.
Commissioner O’Kane said the 80 kids who played Green Hornets Rugby this summer—practicing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and playing weekend games—further strengthened the growing program and enjoyed the myriad benefits of playing the sport. Many of them are fall sports athletes who will enter their football, soccer and field hockey seasons this August with superior conditioning and sharpness.
“These kids are beyond fit,” said O’Kane. “I had one girl who is like a superstar in lacrosse, and the first couple of weeks, she had just finished lacrosse season, and she was gasping for air. She was like, ‘I thought I was in shape!’ The kind of condition these kids are in at the end of the season, it’s amazing how far they transform over those two months. They’re running hard and fast, playing full-speed for an hour and half, two hours in the summer heat, and it’s a lot of running in rugby sevens, far more running that lacrosse or football or anything like that.”
In addition to praising the efforts of Green Hornets President Josh Banks and the GSPAAA for having the fields and facility in tip-top shape to host the championship event, O’Kane said the support of volunteers, coaches and parents has continued to provide the kids with a wonderful experience each summer playing Green Hornets Rugby. Though summer rugby is played as two-hand touch (instead of tackle), players benefitted this season from a tackling clinic to learn proper tackling form with the goal of introducing spring tackle rugby for middle schoolers and preparing the kids for high school rugby.
“We’ve got volunteers, coaches, kids and parents who want to [have the opportunity to play tackle rugby],” he said. The aforementioned coaches as well as Matt Ramirez and Sean Martin have filled out the program with devoted and knowledgeable coaches. “The whole progression is to take them to tackle rugby by high school, so we’re starting to take it there. We want to grow the program.”
Above all, O’Kane said the kids are enjoying the ride rugby affords them and sees many of them remaining lifelong ruggers.
“The big thing is I’m proud of the kids,” O’Kane said. “The kids have done so well and love the sport, and they want to continue growing with it. The entry level is five years old for us, and it’s a sport that these kids can play their whole lives.”