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Top-ranked Gonzaga seemed to be destined to play in the Boys Single-School final until the opening moments of Friday's semifinal against Indiana's Penn HS, but then things started to go south.
Penn kicked. Penalty and then ran in a try to lead 10-0. Worse yet, their HS All-American flyhalf, Ben Cima, had a played fall on his arm. At first everyone though he'd broken his arm. It turned out to be a bowed bone - still painful and worrisome, but better with some rest. Wth Cima gone and Penn on the upswing, Gonzaga looked in trouble.
"They had to fix all that themselves," said Gonzaga Director of Rugby Lee Kelly. "It was up to them to turn it around."
Captains Matt Flynn, prop, and Dominic Plantamura, No. 8, settled the team down. Kelly brought on Matt Parrish, who had done such a fine job at scrumhalf as a sub earlier in the season, and told him to play #10.Parrish did brilliantly and scrumhalf Jimmy Ronan kicked for goal very well in Cima's absence, and Gonzaga got back on track.
Flynn was inspirational in tight, getting his forwards to hang tough against a strong Penn pack, and the backs started to move the ball.
"We knew that if we got sucked into a tight game we would be in trouble," said Kelly. "We had to stretch the field."
Gonzaga scored three times to lead 19-15 at halftime and never looked back. Winning 45-27. For a team that had fallen behind and lost their best player, it was a quick and impressive comeback.
"I am incredibly proud of the boys," said Kelly. "From the leadership of the captains to how the players just didn't panic and got back on track ... Just very proud."
Gonzaga faces Jesuit Saturday in the final.