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Cathedral, Colorado Springs and United all won big in the Boys National High School Invitational HS club bracket.
Only one quarterfinal was at all close, and it was extremely close, with the Danville Oaks of Northern California beating the San Diego Mustangs of Southern California 17-15.
Danville, new to the top tier in Northern California, has emerged as a real contender thanks in part to coach Roy Helu’s system and training regimen, and also to No. 8 Vili Helu’s superb play.
But it was more than that on Thursday. Running moves off the srum, Danville set free their backs for two nifty tries early. They led 10-0. But San Diego stormed back with a try, converted, and a penalty, to make it 10-10.
After that Danville did well to keep the ball in their forwards and deny the Mustangs attacking opportunities. Despite giving up much in the way of size, the Oaks forwards held their own, and were bolstered by the addition of scrumhalf Rhys Watkin and flanker Matt Mulholland, both founding club members who are back from injury.
Danvlle took the lead late on a well-worked weakside play off a scrum, involving their outside backs. They scored and converted to lead 17-10. With time winding down San Diego stole the ball, and scored, but missed the kick, and that was the difference – 17-15 Danville.
“It was a great match,” said Danville coach John Straka. “San Diego are very well coached and they are the best team we’ve played. Both teams took advantage of mistakes, but our forwards did a great job and showed good technique. I thought it wasn’t going to happen, but it did. San Diego are a good team and were really classy afterward.”
Vili Helu was immense on defense for Danville, who take on Cathedral on Friday.
For their part, Cathedral bat Marin 33-19. It took them a while. Marin scored early and then ran in a try somewhat against the run of play for a 12-7 lead.
But in the second half, Cathedral’s forwards dominated.
“We had better defense and just started to put it together,” said Cathedral Head Coach Scott Peterson. “It was very hot and I was proud of our guys for sticking to it.”
Max Schroeder and Drew Wiemer led the way for Cathedral.
United and Colorado Springs both won easily. Colorado Springs were 54-22 winners over Westerville, and United pummeled a very good KC Jr Blues team 56-7.
“We don’t have a big pack, but they’ve got great technique and work really hard,” said United Head Coach Colin Puriri, echoing the words from Danville. “We have had a lot of injuries but we got some guys back.”
Zach Webber, the HS All American, and Beau Kanenwisher both are back from injury, and that, along with a tough Utah league season bolstered the team.
United shocked KC a little bit, as the Jr. Blues have been used to dominating up front. But United, with their speed and power, dominated on this day.