Rugby: Chiefs co-op unseats Brother Rice to win state title

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Bryce Elliott said two things made the Chiefs’ rugby state championship possible — belief, and unselfishness.


“They all went out and did their job,” said Elliott, the Chiefs coach.


The Chiefs co-op rugby team, comprised of players from seven area high schools, knocked off nine-time state champion Brother Rice 29-24 in the Illinois Youth Rugby Association Division I final on Monday in Rockford.


It is the second championship for the Chiefs.


The program, which started in 2002 as the Waubonsie Valley Rugby Club, won the Division 2 title in 2009, then moved up to Division 1 the next year. The Chiefs draw on players from Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley, Oswego, Oswego East, Aurora Central Catholic, Neuqua Valley and Yorkville, with a home-schooled player from DeKalb.


The Chiefs (8-1) never trailed in the championship match against previously unbeaten Brother Rice. The Chiefs led 19-5 and 29-12 late, before emptying their bench with 10 minutes left. Andrew Kallas, a junior at Waubonsie, scored two tries worth five points each. Austin Golden and Griffin Lawrence, seniors at Oswego, and Keagan Griffin, a senior at Oswego East, each scored on additional tries.


The seniors on the team did have playoff experience, finishing third at the freshman/sophomore level in 2012.


In this year’s playoffs the Chiefs first beat Fenwick, then a team from Arlington Heights in a game Elliott called their toughest of the season. Brother Rice was the defending state champion.


“Not only winning the state championship, but beating Brother Rice was a big deal,” said Elliott, who played professionally in New Zealand prior to coming to the United States.


The Chiefs have between 60 and 80 players in their high school program and another 30 to 40 at the middle school level, fielding a total of five teams. Elliott said this championship belongs to all of them.


“The main thing is, it’s a sacrifice. There is no greediness with this team,” Elliott said. “Rugby is all one sport. The freshmen and sophomores and middle school are state champions. If it wasn’t for their pressure on the varsity guys, they wouldn’t be their best.”

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