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BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Ruggers place in Nationals

The Bowling Green rugby team’s season started in South Africa in August and ended in California last weekend.

Playing for the National Collegiate Rugby Championship in Stanford University’s new two million dollar rugby stadium, the Falcon ruggers defeated Stanford University 37″12 Friday, only to lose to Penn State 37″26 Saturday.

BG came back to take the consolation match Sunday, beating No. 2-ranked Utah 44″19. The victory over Utah enabled BG to match the 1987 squad which finished third in the nationals with a victory over Dartmouth.

“This is going to take a while to sink in,” BG coach Roger Mazzarella said. “We didn’t reach the goal we sought, but after the Penn State implosion, I’m proud of the way the guys regrouped and ground Utah into little pieces.

“I have to hand it to the Westerville boys – Chad Cunnigan, Andrew Riddell, Wes Holsinger, Garrett Fisher, Shawn Sass and Tim Laubensheimer,” he said. “When they came in four years ago, they reinvigorated the entire program, myself included.”

The Falcons have finished higher in the standings in each of the last four years as they try for a national championship. “Movement in the lower echelons is easy,” BG assistant Chris Hopps said. “At the top each tiny change takes a tremendous increase in effort.”

The Falcons easily defeated Stanford, who were added to the Division I ranks after winning the National Division II championship last year.

Center Mike Marquis scored four tries while fly half Derek Imes and senior flanker Andy Luciano scored on solo efforts. Fullback Matt Johnston added a penalty field goal and two conversions as BG won, 37″12.

Everything was looking up for the Falcons as they faced arch rival Penn State, one of a few teams that have had some success against the Falcons over the past two decades.

Already out with broken legs were wings Kevin Mongold and Alessio DiFranco. Three minutes into the match scrum half and team captain Vince Staropoli was knocked woozy on a tackle and forced to leave the match. In rugby a player that leaves the match with an injury can’t return.

“Of the 99 tries scored by the first XV last fall, 48 or nearly half, were scored by Staropoli, Mongold and DiFranco,” Mazzarella said. “It was bad enough to be without the other two, losing Staropoli’s leadership was devastating.”

The Nittany Lions built up a 22″5 halftime lead, as BG’s only score coming on a 50-yard pass and run from center Travis Budd to partner Pete Cromly.

“Other teams might have folded the tents,” Mazzarella said. “But not these guys.”

The Falcons came back onto the field at the start of the second half and almost stole the match away from Penn State. Senior prop Doug Ulrich took four defenders on a 10-yard ride for a try and lock Aaron Slates scored on a back peel off a lineout. Wing Zac Molnar added a third try and center Pete Cromly converted all three.

Unfortunately, the Nittany Lion offense let no Falcon try go unanswered as they added three more of their own to maintain a comfortable point lead and garner a 37″26 victory.

BG took the field against second-ranked Utah. Taking just a minute and a half, BG marched down the field and scored a try on a heads-up play by freshman eight man Fred Ackermann as Cromly converted.

The Falcons drove down the field with the kickoff and Ackermann again punched over the goal line for a try and again Cromly converted.

Driving the Utah forwards back 20 yards on the kickoff, Staropoli picked up the stolen ball and dove in for a try and a 19″0 lead.

Cromly hit on a 44-yard penalty field goal and fly half Chad Cunnigan sliced in from the 10 for another try. BG went into halftime with a 29″5 lead.

In the second half Cromly landed another penalty kick and lock Aaron Slates slapped off would-be tacklers on a 35-yard run for a try. Lock Jeff Meeker finished BG’s scoring with a play from the 10. Utah scored a pair of late scores as BG won 44″19.

“As much as this game belonged to the offense, our defense set up a good amount of those points,” Mazzarella said. “Flanker Alex Demma, center Pete Cromly and wing Andrew Riddell kept up the BG tradition of the ‘big stick.'”

The Falcons finish the season with a 21″3 record to go along with the national consolation victory. The Falcons also won their 22nd straight Mid-American Conference championship, their sixth straight Michigan Collegiate championship as well as winning the first Falcon Rugby Invitational.

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