14 April 2014

Mustangs Boys Start Season with a First

Although the Saratoga Mustangs Boys and Girls just recently made it outside for the first practices of the season, the coaching staffs have been working diligently to prepare the young ruggers for the perils of the game.  A week removed from scrimmage type play, the teams embarked on exhibition matches this past weekend to kick off the season.

On Saturday, the boys, with new head coach Aaron Noble, and a revamped assistant coaching crew, took to Waterford High School where they hosted Essex Men's High School Rugby in the second part a home and home, dating back to the late part of the 2013 season. 

Going into the match up, Saratoga had never come out on top against Essex.  In 2008, then under Coach Tempest, the Mustangs came up short hosting Essex in Malta during the regular season during Vermont Youth Rugby Association (VYRA) play.  The next season, the Mustangs were humbled in their season opener at Essex; then, in the VYRA state championship, the Mustangs played a hard fought match to come up just shy in the scoring column against Essex and ended up with the second place trophy to Essex' championship.  Finally, in a preparation match for States last year, the Mustangs had a humbling loss in Essex to the well coached Vermont squad. 

Back to the present, Coach Noble and company took quite a mixture of experience and an unfortunate minimal amount of practices into the match on Saturday.  However, no one told the 2014 Mustangs that they could not beat Essex.  So they did not burden themselves with history.  Instead, they jumped out to a 29-0 lead at halftime and held on for a dramatic victory.  More importantly, it shows that these 2014 Mustangs have once again reloaded and are off to a great start with high expectations in both CDYR play, as well as RugbyNY as a whole. 

Go Mustangs and continue to Respect your ROOTS!

15 May 2011

Mustang Boys End Road Set with Victory

Friday, May 13th marked the last of three straight scheduled road matches for the U19 Mustang boys as they traveled to Poestenkill to take on the Rensselaer Dragons. The Dragons, coached by CDYR president, Rob Sliwinski, have had a storied season thus far, and were expected to put up a technically sound and competitive match against the Mustangs, who were coming in after a solid team match against the Bulldogs of Albany (last Saturday).
Kick-off was held a bit past five, as the Mustangs arrived a little late with the unexpected traffic. After kitting up, the Mustangs felt that lag as they took the field. The Dragons played in the Mustang half for the first several minutes of the half. Unusual for the Saratoga squad over the past couple weeks, they were on their heals early and often over those first several minutes. In the tenth minute, however, it was captain and fly-half, Chris Heckman (12th, Ballston Spa) who stopped the lethargic behavior and sliced through the Dragon defense for the first points on the day.
This score woke the Dragons up a bit more as they pushed back into the Saratoga end with spirited ball movement, but Heckman got his backs working for him as his centers continued building their familiarity with the game plan as a switch to the outside center, Jack Guba (11th, BHBL), gave them five more points at the 15th minute mark.
Sliwinski's Dragons came back with vigor, though, as they continued to push into the Saratoga end. Their resurgence was helped in part by the plethora of Mustang penalties for being offside at rucks (an attribute expected to be resolved in the upcoming practices!). The Mustangs slowed things down, though, and returned to play on their toes as scrum half Tyler Krastins (12th, BHBL) began driving and working the forwards from phase to phase. Hooker, Zach Besserab (11th, BHBL), capitalized on the surge in the 30th minute as he pushed through for a try. With a conversion by inside center, Race Viedt (10th, BHBL) and a try a few minutes later by eight man Joe Russell (12th, BHBL), the Mustangs went into half time up 22-0 on the Dragons.
At the intermission, the Mustangs changed things up as fullback Ryan Manning (10th, BHBL) went to scrumhalf and Tylor Peragine (12th, BHBL) came in to govern things at the back at #15. A few other substitutions were made to vary the line up as the whistle came to start the second half.
It wasn't long before Manning took over the game as he embodied the furry little animal from the battery commercials as he kept on going and going and going... At the 40th minute, Manning sliced and diced (and forgot to get tackled) for his first try; Viedt converted to make the effort worth seven points. After battling back and forth over the next several minutes, Manning took charge again off of a pick and go and blew through the defense for another try (and another conversion by Viedt).
Manning and Heckman then orchestrated some of the best back line dominance of the season for Saratoga, while the forwards rucked over and over to maintain possession and progress the ball into the opposition's field. Notable in the solid forward play was flanker August Amirault (10th, BHBL) who embodied "will" and "determination" almost every phase. That, along with solid back line play allowed for outside center, Tom Esmann (12th, BHBL), Heckman and Viedt to weave through the Dragon line with shifty moves and the will to succeed to score three more tries for the Mustangs. All were converted by Viedt and the proverbial opposition backbone had been broken.
The staff made a few more positional changes at this point to experiment with line-up; although the line-up was still solid, it was obvious that the Dragons were defending their home field as they drove deep into the Mustang territory looking to points on the board. With the Mustangs' backs against the wall, the pack took charge with a defensive scrum and regained possession and moved the gain line out of danger. Russell swung momentum back for Saratoga at the 60th minute and Manning got his third score on a penalty try at the 65th minute. Viedt used both legs to scamper through the defense for score of his own at the 67th and second row, Dylan Thompson (11th, BHBL) blew around the outside of the defense at regulation for the final score.
In the end, the Dragons fought with poise in this spirited match and competed to the end. The Mustangs, though, traveled with the full roster to play to the highest level they could.

Final score: Mustangs 77, Rensselaer 0. Man of the match - fullback/scrumhalf Ryan Manning.

Next week marks the end of the regular season as the Mustangs host the Berkshire United U19 Rugby Club on Sunday, May 22nd. Coached by a seasoned veteran crew, Berkshire will be coming in just a game out of the CDYR top spot. If Saratoga wins, they will be going to the State Championships over Memorial Day weekend. Please come out and show your support and help these Mustangs make it to the next level.

09 May 2011

Mustang Boys Continue Winning Ways

This past Saturday marked the debut of the Saratoga Mustang Boys U19 Team. Strange, you may say, as they are nine weeks into the season and this was their fourth match. True, but up until now, there was group effort from the forwards or the backs, but the side of 15 struggled to show the unity required for seamless team play for an entire match.

That was not the case this past Saturday. Saratoga traveled to the campus of UAlbany to take on the Albany Bulldogs - the Mustang's longest rival thus far in the five year history. The skies cleared out in the early afternoon and the sun shined down to help showcase this match-up. The coaching staff had been on the boys about setting the tone and stepping up the intensity over the past couple weeks since spring break. This last week of practice was a step in the right direction, but the path continued upon the first whistle.

Albany kicked off to the start the match just a few minutes after three. The ball was fielded by shifty fullback, Ryan Manning (10th, BHBL) who darted up the right sideline for a big gain. Strong rucking set the pace by the forwards as the gain line moved steadily up the field. At the three minute mark, it was the Mustang's shiftiest of players sneaking in for the first try of the match, as four year veteran scrumhalf, Tyler Krastins (12th, BHBL) placed the ball for 5 points. Inside center, Race Viedt (10th, BHBL) converted to put the Mustangs up 7-0.

Saratoga received the ball on kick-off and worked back down the field in similar fashion with solid phase play. Rucking over and over again got Saratoga within five meters when prop Max Alberts (11th, BHBL) shoved through for the Mustangs second score at the sixth minute mark. Less than ten minutes later, the forward play earned another score as eight man Joe Russell squeezed through traffic for five more points. After the Viedt conversion, Saratoga found itself up 19-0 just fifteen minutes in.

Saratoga began opening things up with a little lead as captain and fly-half, Chris Heckman (12th, Ballston Spa) took over with his backs. With Krastins' great out passes, Heckman led the back line with quick ball movement and key play calling as his centers ran switches down the field to make large gains. In fact, rookie outside center, Jack Guba (11th, BHBL) took advantage of spot-on passing and line running to touch the ball down twice in a matter of three minutes over half way through the first 35. Shortly thereafter, the forwards pushed through for another hard fought rucking try as prop, Shawn Whitaker, punished the opposition for five. All three were converted by Viedt and the Mustangs took a 40-0 lead to halftime.

The staff worked in all fresh legs early in the second half to keep the pressure on. Although Albany was down on the score board, they never backed off. In fact the first half ended with Albany playing a good bit in Saratoga's end. However, the Mustangs kicked off to start the second half; that was the only time they would need to for the rest of the match. Guba got his third score a few minutes in and eight man and forwards captain Robbie Marshall (12th, BHBL) worked Albany forwards over to gain a try several minutes later. With Viedt conversions on both, Saratoga had a 54-0 lead.

As mentioned, though, Albany kept fighting back and never backed down. In fact, a few bad penalties were taken by the Mustangs and Albany had a couple chances to put points up on kicks. Fortunately for the Mustangs, the wind aided them and after each kick, the score remained the same. That did not stop Albany as they kept pounding the ball in the Mustang half of the field. Mid way through the second half, Albany found themselves with a line-out on the Mustang five meter line. With their most powerful prop touting he was getting the ball and going to charge forward, the undersized Mustangs stepped up and defended their goal-line with their hearts and kept Albany off the board.

The Bulldogs kept pushing forward, but found themselves chasing a good portion of the length of the field in the 58th minute as Heckman found himself dicing through the fly-half/center gap for a 60 meter run and five more points. This, with the Viedt conversion, put the proverbial dagger in the comeback attempt on the day. Although the Bulldogs were back on the doorsteps of the Saratoga try line as time was winding down, the Mustang goal-line defense would not let the Albany forwards or the backs advance the gain line any closer as they held on to preserve the shut-out.

Final score: Saratoga 61, Albany 0. Man of the Match: Saratoga Mustangs

Please continue your support as the Mustangs travel to play the Dragons of Rensselaer this Friday, before ending at home on Sunday, May 22nd, against the Berkshire United. Parents, friends and the Saratoga Rugby Community in general are encouraged to come cheer the boys on as they continue elevating their game.

18 April 2011

Mustang Boys Finish Home Set Strong Before Hitting the Road for Three Straight

The Schenectady Chargers bolted into Fireman's Grove on Friday, April 10th, for a match-up with the Saratoga Mustang Boys U19 Rugby Club. The Chargers were poised for their first match of the season, while Saratoga was looking at its second match in six days. Both sides were lean for kick-off as spring break and early season injuries claimed several players from both sides. As such, the match kicked off for Saratoga with rookies at key positions in the pack as Shawn Whitaker (BHBL, 10th) stood in at front row and Nate Sawyer (BHBL, 10th) came in the back at eight-man. The rest of the starting line-up was filled out with veterans including this week's forwards captain and second row, Dylan Thompson (BHBL, 11th) and team captain and fly-half, Chris Heckman (Ballston Spa, 12th). This line-up was key in getting the Mustangs trotting to an early lead. In fact, in the second minute, it was early dominant forward play and shifty ball movement that allowed inside center Race Viedt (BHBL, 10th) to charge through traffic for the first score of the game. Much of the first half was played in the Saratoga offensive end as three more tries followed with aggressive pack play and good ball handling to the line. In the 19th minute, Sawyer bullied his way for five points, followed by Viedt at the 23rd minute, who, yes, Raced his way for 30 plus meters for his second score of the match. In the last minute of the half, flanker Shayne Briaddy (BHBL, 10th) squeezed his way in for a hard-earned try and put the Mustangs up 20-0 at the whistle. At half time, the Mustangs made personnel changes in the backs but kept things the same up front. The punishing runs from the forwards continued into the second half as Whitaker and Sawyer barreled into and through defenders and the spark-plug hooker Joe Russell (BHBL, 12th) got underneath defenders several times on his own for big gains. These runs allowed Sawyer to get his second try of the match at the 40th minute. Schenectady responded to the final Saratoga try as they began crafty and punishing runs of their own; however, this was not enough to overcome the Saratoga lead. Regardless, the Chargers neven showed an ounce of quit as they kept driving and pounding as hard as they could. They counter-rucked superbly in the second half and began gaining momentum. Schenectady exhibited significant character on the day and it was truly an honor to match up against them. In the end, though, it was Saratoga 25 - Schenectady 0. The man of the match, as elected by the Chargers, was hooker Joe Russell. Saratoga now hits the road for three straight before returning home May 22nd against Berkshire United.

10 April 2011

Mustang Boys Kick-off 2011 Season

On Sunday, April 10th, just past noon, Fireman's Grove began filling with cars as the Saratoga Mustang Boys rolled in to prepare for their first match of the year. The coaches called for the early arrival to work out some last second bugs and finalize a few details from practices. It paid off, as things really clicked for the young Mustang team - a team that the coaches announced at registration meetings was a "rebuilding team." With so many of the club's long-standing members from its first year in 2007 having graduated last year, the staff was unsure of how things would unfold back in February.

When the Kingston Mad Dogs Rugby Club made it to the Grove, Saratoga knew the build-up was legitimate. Last year, Kingston was a powerhouse in CDYR and through communications with their coaches early this season, Saratoga expected them to start this season where they left things last year.

At kick-off, Saratoga received with a line-up of all veterans, but most of which had only one year of experience and several were donning a new jersey for this season. The tone was set early for eight-man Rob Marshall as he tanked his way for many large gains. This culminated with a score at the 15th minute. The try was converted by new inside center Race Viedt to give the Mustangs a quick 7-0 lead. As the half drew on, those eight man runs were more and more independent as the Mustangs forwards endurance began to fade and support was longer in getting there. This demise in endurance allowed Kingston to drive through with their own score to cut the lead to 7-5.

At half, a few changes were made to the pack as Coach Ristau needed to get fresh legs into the mix. This worked to the Mustang advantage as it was able to draw a penalty in the 39th minute that had Viedt put another 3 points on the board with clutch kick. The remainder of the game was scoreless, but hard fought the entire way. With a single Kingston try to tie and a conversion to take the lead, Saratoga knew strong defense was the key. Many critical weak side tackles were made by veteran scrumhalf, Tyler Krastins, as he knew he was last line of defense before big runs. Additionally, it was a very successful line-out strategy and execution that allowed Saratoga to win over 80% of its own line-outs, as well as steal half on Kingston's, as second row Dylan Thompson was relentless in his quest to turn the ball to his side, regardless of who was throwing.

Final Score: Saratoga 10, Kingston 5. Mustang Man of the match, as named by Kingston - Flyhalf and team captain - Chris Heckman

With the Saratoga roster too big for a single team and too small for two teams, the coaches were able to secure a developmental half for those hungry Mustangs that were unable to make the regulation match. Although only playing 14 on 14, Saratoga was able to showcase some of its up and coming rookies and veterans. Key runs on the wing by outside center Brian Kuczek and outside tackling by wing Rob Dussault allowed Saratoga to keep it close. In the end, Kingston grabbed a 5-0 victory. That was a small loss in comparison to the experience gained by many of the rookies as they got their first game experience - something I have said for over 12 years - you only think you know the sport with practice - you come to know the sport the first time you play it.

After Sunday's performance, the coaches are now wondering if 2011 is a rebuilding year or just a reloading year.

Please come support the Mustangs on Friday, April 15th at 5:00 as they host the Schenectady Chargers!

25 October 2009

Saratoga Stampede Rugby Club Brings Home First Division Title and Moves to Division III

It was almost four years ago when the first meeting to form a Saratoga area rugby club took place. In the main dining room at Andy Bentley's restaurant, Chuck Tempest, Pete Mody, Owen Maranville, Vern Peek, Matt Volke and Bill Ackerbauer, the only attendees, were handed out offices of a club that was still debating a name, colors, practice location, and roster. While many faces have changed over the past four years, the Saratoga Stampede Rugby Club improved with each passing season and, this Saturday, vanquished Monadnock Rugby Club 31-0 to go undefeated in league play and claim its first Division Championship.

Rugby is a physically demanding sport that is growing and gaining a lot of popularity in the area. Saratoga boasts a men's team, a women's team, two high school boys teams and two high school girls teams, and it was quite a year for all of them. All-in-all, about 150 people play rugby for Saratoga now, a remarkable feat when four years ago when no rugby existed in the area.

Saturday, however, was all about the original squad, the Saratoga Stampede Men. Most of the faces that were at that first meeting of officers were not on the field. Tempest, Maranville, and Volke were undone by employment demands. Ackerbauer retired after a shattered collarbone made the drive from Johnstown too much. Mody was sidelined for the fall rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon. It was only Vern Peek, who was elevated to the status of captain for the first time this fall, who was on the field to celebrate.

While the championship did not come overnight, the signs were ever present. More victories with each passing season. Closer margins of defeat by high caliber division teams. Being able to stay in games against teams who were in Division III and even Division II. Higher and higher finishes in tournaments. But it all finally came together this fall under the leadership of Coach Brian White, and Captains James Verseput and Peek. Under their leadership, the team took a leap in development in 2009. Most games were non-contests with Saratoga featuring a high octane offense that toasted previous thorn-in-the-side Berkshire 58-0, slowly developing Equinox 107-7, and perennial Division IV stalwart Mad River/Stowe 48-0. Rutland, a member of Division III last year, was the first victim of the faster, more advanced Saratoga offense, falling 19-7 and showing the club that a move to Division III was now a necessity.

As in many rugby games in the late fall, Monadnock came to a mess of a field that had standing water reminiscent of the club's first ever home game against Albany Law. Perhaps it was appropriate that conditions mimicked the club's birth as its goal has continually been to establish a storied, successful, and community conscious organization that the area can be proud of. After 80 minutes, despite spirited and commendable play by the men from Monadnock, Saratoga showed, try after try, why they deserved to make the move. Ball control, quality passing, and speed proved too much for any league opponent this season, and Monadnock was no different, with Saratoga having five different people score and Peek converting 3 of 5 two-point conversion kicks.

When the whistle sounded and the champagne flew, all of those who played a role in Saratoga's beginnings and development could take pride in what the 25 dedicated men who played on the field Saturday accomplished: the New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) Division IV Championship.

24 October 2009

Saratoga Men Romp Monadnock to Take Title and Move to Division III

Just a quick post to let people know that the Saratoga Stampede are NERFU Division IV Champs after defeating Monadnock 31-0. The Stampede will be promoted to Division III for next season .