LITTLETON — The similarities are there, especially in the physical nature between the sports, but as Greysen Lincoln points out, there’s one major difference between rugby and football.
“It’s a lot more of an active sport. You’ve got to be a lot more aware. You have to know where all your guys are unlike in football,” Lincoln said. “It’s a lot more team-oriented. You’ve all got to be a cohesive unit. That’s also the case in football, but it’s a lot more apparent in rugby.”
PAC Rugby, for whom Lincoln plays, and SWARM, however, are on opposite ends of the spectrum presently. PAC, a Division 2 state champion in 2012, was a point away from reaching the state finals again a year ago. It was a huge letdown for a team that thought it had all the tools in place to repeat.
“Last year was a big disappointment in the last minute losing by one point. It was a big goal to defend our championship, but we didn’t do that,” PAC Rugby head coach Hugh Miller said.
So this year, with 22 seniors on a 42-player roster, the focus has never been clearer: to get back to the top.
“It’s about just putting in all the work that we can to get back to the state finals,” four-year player Alex Wormer said. “We want to win it this year. We felt like we could’ve last year.”
SWARM, on the other hand, is trying all that it can to reach that level, but it’s difficult with low numbers and injuries.
“We’re still shy on numbers. That’s really our biggest thing. We had 23 healthy kids to start the season and we’re down to 18 now. When you’re playing 15, it makes it rough,” said SWARM head coach Tom Ren, who recruits players from Chatfield, Columbine, Dakota Ridge, D’Evelyn and Front Range Christian. “We still need some more players. We’re coming along. We’ve got a great group of kids this year. The best athletes I’ve had the opportunity to coach. The unfortunate thing is that we don’t have enough.”
Thus, when one team, such as SWARM, is playing against an experienced squad like PAC, you get results such as the 43-0 score on March 8 at Front Range Christian. It was the second match of the 2014 season for both squads — PAC is 2-0, while SWARM is 0-2. That said, Ren is confident that SWARM will one day get there because of the development of its TRY youth program with 120 kids.
“It’s just a matter of time. One day at a time, a week at a time, a season at a time,” he said. “It’s rough, but we’re getting there. We’re just making the little mistakes that are costing us a lot of points. It’s not about the execution in a lot of places. It’s a few mistakes here and there that are really made the difference in our competition level. We’re going to be just fine.”
Nathaniel Moss, a senior at Dakota Ridge High School, didn’t come up through the TRY program. Instead, he played a season ago for Ridgeview Academy. But it is that experience that Moss hopes to instill in his younger teammates so SWARM goes down the road where PAC is now.
“I feel like this team can do really good the next few years,” Moss said. “I’m not sure where we’re going to go the rest of this season, but I’m sure you’ll see us and that we’ll be going far.”
PAC has been there because of the numbers. The program, which pulls players from Platte Canyon, Conifer and Evergreen high schools, started up its own developmental TRY system four years ago. The experience factor has been invaluable for PAC, which returned its entire back line this season to go with a talented forward grouping, Miller said. So why has PAC been able to recruit the players in recent years?
“I think it’s having success and just constantly working at recruitment,” Miller said. “Our TRY program was big, having 100 kids playing in the summer. It’s also word of mouth. We tell them to bring out the quality athlete kids that we want. They’re doing a lot of it.”
And it’s showing with the results.
SWARM just may be there someday as well. Another game just three days away brings another opportunity to continue the learning curve.
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.