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Colorado's Boys High School champions, Colorado Springs, look like they are ready to reload.
Despite some guarded admonitions by Head Coach John Paterson that no chickens should be counted early, Springs has reason to feel optimistic.
While they did graduate several strong players, Springs could well reload without too much trouble. The team has begun trianing without their wrestlers, who are finishing up that season. Pine Creek HS is a main feeder for the Colorado Springs rugby team, and their wrestling squad just won the state title. So Paterson is expecting some good, hard-working athletes to bolster his forward pack. High School All American Michael Black returns, but Paterson is urging a look at team performance.
"It's crucial we approach this as a team," he said. "Overall I like our depth and while we have a lot of unknowns, there are already signs that the new players are picking it up."
It will also help that Coach Paterson's son, USA back and former Super 15 player James, has moved back to Colorado and will help with some coaching.
Colorado Springs remains under a big pile of snow, so that should hamper their start, but they take on Regis Jesuit next week regardless.
This weekend, East HS plays Fort Collins and the Tigers on the same day, while Littleon and Aurora face off, Chaparral visits the Grand Gents, and PAC and the HR Harlequins both converge on SWARM.
Those are all friendlies, with Wednesday's Springs v. Regis game marking the beginning of the league season.
At Chaparral, Coach Greg Wolfe returned the team to single-school status. That limits his recruiting pool to just one schoo, but with 13 returning players and a hefty recruiting class, they will be fine.
“Quite a few kids who could shine this year,” said Wolfe. “It is too soon to tell.”
Wolfe has brought in the Chaparral varsity football coach as an assistant, quite a coup for the program, and that move has “helped to attract some athletes who might otherwise pass on rugby.”
Cherry Creek has moved up to the first division and returns nine starters, including Ben Pinkleman and Rod Smith, Jr., the latter being the son of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith, who logged over 10,000 receiving yards in the NFL.
Creek opens their season against Colorado Springs in 12 days.
Meanwhile the team slated to face Springs in five days, Regis Jesuit, is returnign the bulk of their starting lineup, including promising hooker Eric Hamilton and prop Colin Pullara.
Tigers returns Jeff Madigan and scrumhalf Alec Walters, who will captain the squad.
“Jeff’s energy is the best I’ve seen in years and he’s gone the extra distance to bolster our chances of playing again in the finals,” anthused Coach Paul O'Brian. Ben Onaindia, Jamison Escobar, Charlie Ellwood and Devin Weeks all return for the Tigers.
Tigers open league play against Aurora, which return an experienced group of backs to a solid front eight.
SWARM from the Southwestern part of the greater Denver area is young, but has experience.
“We are getting a lot of younger players who have graduated from TRY League,” said Head Coach Dave Doessel. “We’ve returned thirteen, but only three are seniors.”
The TRY League is Colorado’s pre-high school rugby organization that starts at U7.
Nick Horvath moves from wing to scrumhalf and will be a key leader for the team before going off to the US Naval Academy after graduation.
Sophomore Zack Lowe is an Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union U17 All Star and the gridiron offenive lineman is a force in the pack.
Additional reporting and writing by Bernie Decker