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It took seven years for the Naples Bears to finally break through, but that
they did this year.
Second in the South twice, and third in the South twice, the high school club team has now parlayed its fifth straight state title into a USA Rugby South championship as well.
“It’s taken a while,” said Head Coach Steve Young, whose team outscored league opponents 113-12 in five games this year. “But I think it has a lot to do with the mind-set. We talk a lot on the team about choices – you can choose to work harder, you can choose to be a good teammate. You can choose to do the work to be a champion.”
Young has worked hard to recruit top athletes to his program. And he has succeeded. Current USA hopeful and Life University star Cam Dolan was a Bear, but still that South title eluded.
This year, Brandon Bolock has been outstanding sat flanker, and is set to play football at the University of Chicago (where he has received an agreement from the coach that he can still play rugby). Sebastian Zuluaga is going to take a DII football scholarship that also allows him to play rugby. Lock/flanker Pat Davis could also be going that route, and has been a monster in the forwards.
“What’s pleasing to me is that these guys are good enough athletes to get recruited to play football at least at the DII and DIII level,” said Young. “But at the same time, it’s clear they love rugby. They tell me they wish their [high school] football coaches had let them play earlier. They will play football because of the scholarship, but will play rugby because they love it.”
Naples made their way through the South Championships as they had the season, crushing opponents and being relatively injury-free.
They slammed Matthews 66-5 and then beat Tampa 24-5. That set up the final against the Raleigh Rattlesnakes.
“We had stayed injury-free but then two of our guys ran right into each other,” said Young. “I remember two years ago the same thing happened – two guys ran into each other and both had to leave the game. It was tough. This time we took one guy out, but the other stayed in, and we gutted it out and won.”