Kiski Valley rugby advances to PA Club semifinals

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Sunday, May 13, 2018 | 8:09 PM


Before the Kiski Valley players took the field for Sunday's playoff match, they went into the stands and handed their moms a carnation as a Mother's Day gift.

Once the match started, they treated their moms and everyone else in attendance to a dominating performance against short-handed Carlisle.

The top-seeded Titans controlled the match from start to finish, rolling to a 67-5 victory over No. 8 Carlisle, which played one player short of a full lineup, in the Rugby PA Club Division II quarterfinals at Kiski Area.

Kiski Valley advanced to the semifinals for its second time and will seek their second state title next weekend in Cumberland Valley. The semifinals are Saturday, and the championship is Sunday.

David Schuffert, Andrew Bigler and Logan Treich scored two tries apiece for Kiski Valley, which scored 10 tries in the match, and Brent Hrobak converted seven of 10 conversion kick attempts.

“It's feels great to win, but we're not done yet,” Kiski Valley captain Luke Larko said. “We still have a goal to meet, and we're still pushing forward.

“(Carlisle) being short a player was definitely an advantage, but we still had to play our hardest to get what we wanted.”

Carlisle made the three-hour trip to Vandergrift with only 14 players because of injuries and had players absent for personal reasons. A few minutes in, a Carlisle player was injured and did not return, putting the team down two players for the majority of the match.

“Playing with 13 against a team like us that wants to move the ball from edge to edge is extremely difficult,” Kiski Valley coach Seth Erwin said. “Our game plan is to make you run. Even if they had a full roster, our game plan was going to be the same. We knew they were a bigger team, so we wanted to make them run to tire them out.”

Bigler got the scoring started 5 minutes in with a try, and Hrobak converted a kick from a difficult angle to put the Titans up 7-0. Frank Poydence, Schuffert, Bigler, Will McClarnon and Treich scored unanswered tries to give the Titans a 38-0 halftime lead. The Titans stuffed Carlisle twice inside the 10-yard line in the first 40 minutes to keep it off the board.

“We tackled well, which is something we hadn't been doing in the last couple of weeks. We defended well, and once we got possession, we maintained it,” Erwin said. “We talked to our guys all week about keeping possession, working our offense and playing good fundamental rugby. We did that.”

The Titans took advantage of a tired Carlisle side in the second half. Larko, Schuffert, Treich and Hayden Wright broke off scoring runs of 50-plus yards.

Schuffert was sidelined with a knee injury for a couple of weeks but was strong in his return. He carried a couple of defenders into the end zone for in the first half and bowled over a Carlisle player near midfield, stole the ball and ran untouched for a score in the second half.

“I just got cleared two weeks ago to come back,” Schuffert said. “It felt good to be out there. (Rugby) is awesome. I like it.”

Raheem Washington scored a late try for Carlisle to break the shutout bid.

Many of Kiski Valley's players will attend prom Friday before leaving for Cumberland Valley on Saturday morning. The last time the Titans made the finals, Kiski Area's prom was Saturday, so players had to drive back and forth between the semifinal and final.

Erwin said he believes his team is ready and capable to bring home another state championship trophy.

“We just have to play like we did today,” Erwin said. “When we won the title (in 2016), we had freak athletes with some good rugby players mixed in. Right now, we have really good rugby players, and they also happen to be freak athletes. We have a really good group of players.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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