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In one of the few college games over the weekend, Notre Dame College defeated Wheeling Jesuit 59-5. Six difference Falcons found pay dirt in route to a convincing victory.
NDC graduated only three players from last year’s squad that reached the DIAA national championship and the Penn Mutual CRC qualifier final in Las Vegas. The Falcons looked to pick up right where they left off last season and got good performances from their returning impact players.
Captain and stalwart Spencer Duncan scored a try and led from the front while Marcus Tupuola led the backs. Normally the fullback, Tupuola slotted in at fly half because Cory Graham was out with an illness. Tupuola scored a try and set up several others in the convincing victory.
Although NDC piled on the points this weekend, it has shown its defensive prowess in recent years. A stout defensive performance against AIC in the DIAA semifinals and a great defensive display at LVI was the main reason the team excelled last season. Despite having a number of explosive options, head coach Jason Fox indicated that it begins and ends with defense.
“My focus is on defense. Our focus last year was on defense and I think we played very well against AIC to get to nationals. We like to put zeros up on the board as much as possible,” Fox told Rugby Today.
Wheeling Jesuit was up against it coming into the match. With head coach Tal Bayer leaving for New England College earlier this year, the new coaching staff has had little time to get things up and running. The Cardinals were competitive for the first 20 minutes but Notre Dame ultimately over ran them with strong continuity and an unwavering defense.
“I got a lot of kids from neighborhood up in Cleveland that went to St. Ignatius, St. Edwards from that area that are playing down there. So I am friends with a lot of the kids and I understand it is a tough situation being a player without a coach and without knowing what is going on,” added Fox.
In addition to only graduating several players, NDC has a strong freshman class. The class consists of a couple foreign players and several players coming out of the prominent Gonzaga and Penn high school rugby programs.
It has been a quick development for the rugby program from the small school in Euclid, Ohio. With strong school support, the Falcons have gone from NSCRO to DIAA in four years and is looking to compete with some of the top DIA teams in the country. After two weeks of three a days, the squad was prepared and excited for the beginning of another season.
“We are blessed that Notre Dame College buys into the idea that this is a legitimate sport and that they realize the need for these kids to be treated like the football team, men’s soccer, women’s soccer,” said Fox.
The Falcons will once again play an independent schedule in 2016. Geographically, it has been a challenge for the Falcons. Rugby East would require long amounts of travel and the MAC has never materialized. For now, the NDC will remain as an independent team while it finds a home.