RICEVILLE – McMinn County High School’s Tribe Rugby club travels for almost every match, all over the state and even the nation, seemingly playing anywhere except in its home county.
But an opportunity opened up just a couple of days before to host a pair of matches Saturday at Riceville Elementary School’s Jim Burnette Field, and both the boys’ and girls’ rugby teams treated the home crowd to wins over Murfreesboro-based schools. It was McMinn’s first rugby matches played at home in two seasons.
“We thought we’d probably be playing these games in Knoxville, and then we were able to work it out here in Riceville, which is awesome,” said Tribe Coach Buck Billings. “It’s great to get to play here and give them a home game.”
The boys’ team started the afternoon by pulling away to a 26-5 victory over Siegel. Then in the concluding game, the Tribe girls dominated Blackman to the tune of a 50-0 romp.
“Siegel is a school that has had a rich history, and our guys were able to beat them,” Billings said. “They’ve had a lot of success. Blackman is a school with a lot of athletes, and you can see they had a lot of athletic girls and very good athletes on the field. So both wins are big for us.”
Tribe boys 26, Siegel 5: Christian Hughes muscled his way to the goal line for McMinn’s first try (the rugby equivalent of a touchdown), and Jeremiah Rosenbrook kicked the conversion for an early 7-0 lead.
Tries are worth five points, and the conversion kicks after tries add two points.
Siegel answered with a try but a missed conversion, keeping McMinn ahead 7-5. Cam Smith broke a long run and then later dove to the goal line for the first of his two tries that gave the Tribe a 12-7 lead at halftime.
Smith then made a critical defensive play early in the second half to halt a potential Siegel scoring possession, recovering a loose ball for McMinn after a long Siegel run. With a couple of shifty runs from Keaunte Moore, the Tribe flipped the field back in its favor, and Rosenbrook finished with a try and the conversion for a 19-7 lead.
McMinn kept its lead with two stops against Siegel near its own goal line. Smith then drove in the dagger with what was roughly a 70-yard run for the final try, putting the Tribe up 26-7 after Rosenbrook’s conversion.
Rosenbrook finished 3-4 on conversion kicks.
Tribe girls 50, Blackman 0: Being a program that had won five straight state championships before last season and has made several national tournaments, the McMinn girls made it obvious from the outset that this was a mismatch.
Cayla Watson quickly scored two tries to put McMinn up 14-0 early. Watson finished the game with three tries, all in the first half.
Danielle Satherlie scored two tries and finished 5-8 on conversions, and Sara Blevins, Kaylynn Hamby and Lindsey Dennis also added a try each. The Tribe led 45-0 at halftime.
Satherlie’s second try of the match made for the final score early in the second half, and McMinn was still able to keep Blackman off the scoreboard for the remainder.