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Schuylkill River will make its first ever visit to the DI quarterfinals after upsetting Norfolk and PAC to take the MARC Rugby conference.
Due to club playoff restructuring by USA Rugby, this was the first year that the MARC held an intra-conference playoff. After having lost narrowly to Mystic and Old Blue in the recent seasons, Schuylkill River finally broke through to the national stage.
Schuylkill River defeated Norfolk on Saturday thanks to a last second try in the corner and a successful conversion from former U19 Eagle Owen Jones. The following day the 4th seeded exiles eliminated PAC from the playoffs.
Coming into the game the 8-6 Exiles had a very up-and-down season. The team performed very well at home going undefeated and earning a bonus point in each victory. The road, however, was a much different story as they finished 1-6 and barely made it into the playoffs.
This is a team that has come a long way from its 1-8 season of four years ago.
"All the key guys from that team have stuck around and we have added one or two guys every year that has helped us develop into a solid team," forwards captain Tom Weishaupt told Rugbymag.
The Exiles are led by a solid 9-10 combination of Pat Boyle and Owen Jones. Jones's brother David solidifies the back line while tight head prop Rick Kosa anchors the front five. Rounding out the pack at Number 8 is the hard charging forward Randy Helsman.
The Exiles have been able to create a pipeline with nearby Kutztown University having added five players in the recent years. Combined with the core group of players that have remained over the years, the Exiles have become a very strong side.
While much of the success can be attributed to fresh talent stocking the team, Weishaupt praised head coach Bill Jalbert.
"It is rare in USA Rugby to have a coach stay for five or more years,” said Weishaupt.
Jallbert has built the foundation for Schuylkill River rugby and is now assisted by former Old Blue player Paul Abrams.
The Exiles are excited for their first trip to the Elite 8. They will take on the consistent contender, Metropolis out of Minneapolis in Pittsburgh next weekend.
"We are going into this in a very similar fashion we did to the MARC playoffs. Nobody really expected us to win and we are probably the team that everyone expects the least out of at nationals. Metropolis is a great team but if we keep the ball in hand we have a chance to play with anyone."
Schuylkill River is looking to become a mainstay in the DI group of elite teams.
"Most people know us for our 7s play but our 15s teams has come a long way. We hope to be considered with the likes of Old Blue, Metropolis and Life going forward," added Weishaupt.
Schuylkill River has an opportunity to make an immediate impression when they head to Pittsburgh on the 17th.