In a nail-biting finish, Herriman Red rebounds to win 6th straight state 7s Rugby championshipNov 25, 2019 03:11PM ● By Mark Jackson
Strider Fountaine escapes and looks for open ground. (Photo by Tonia McPeak)
By Mark Jackson | [email protected]
This fall, Herriman Rugby’s top 7s varsity team clinched the final tournament game of the season against their top rival, United Rugby Club.
The final three minutes of the game were especially physical and nerve-wracking: Herriman Red players defended their goal almost non-stop to a 21-17 lead, earning a State Championship.
With five consecutive state wins behind them, 7s Coach Zach Thorum admits his team doesn’t easily think of itself as the underdog. However, this year’s team is relatively young and inexperienced playing together.
High school 7s rugby is played with teams of 7 on large pitches. Teams accumulate points in three state-wide tournaments to win by the final score.
Herriman Red suffered a disappointing defeat from United Ruby Club in the first tournament’s final. Before United, no team had managed to score against Herriman Red.
United is Herriman’s greatest rival. Of the last 15 tournament finals in the region, Coach Thorum estimates Herriman has faced United 13 times. He admires United’s coaches -- and says this season, the team forced Herriman to refocus.
The loss reminded Herriman’s young players not to take any result for granted.
“We thought we could blow out [United] just like every other team. We were playing kind of for ourselves, being individual players,” says scrum-half Strider Fountaine, “and it showed.”
Still watching United celebrate, the team’s captains told Coach Thorum they had no time to nurse their wounds; it was time to train.
Nathan Depew, Mason Barker, Strider Fountaine, and Daxton McPeak each stepped up, says Program Director Jeff Wilson. Some led in action, some inspired the team with their words. Jackson Hammer, an all-American, especially stood out.
Though the young men had less time playing together on the field than most of the program’s past teams, the captains make up for it with extra training at parent Melissa Hammer’s gym, and informal practices and hangouts.
“We’re not necessarily all the best athletes, but we hang out after practice, we get food together -- we’re kind of a family like that,” says Strider.
The parents of the players are proud of the boys for coming together and reaching higher: “They know their brothers are counting on them in life,” says Melissa, mother of Jackson Hammer.
The young men point to Jackson Hammer as a leader among the leaders. “He went hard, always trying to be first in conditioning, in warmup, in everything,” Mason Barker says.
Their hard work and interdependence may have been the key difference: Herriman Red won the final two tournaments, dominating their preliminary competition before eking out defensive victories over United.
Jackson Hammer was named “Man of the Match” in the final game.
The team leaves itself little time for parading: the spring season brings grueling games between 15-man teams.
Herriman’s players have their eyes set on a higher prize: their first-ever national title. Herriman lost the last two years’ national final games by a matter of mere meters each.
Mason Barker and the other leaders already back in the gym, building skill and weight -- and taking initiative.
With everything they’ve learned this season, expect another crackling showing this spring for Herriman Rugby!