Rugby rolls over Miami and Toledo

James Kuper and James Kuper

The Bowling Green rugby team continues to chug along as the proverbial 900 pound gorilla of college rugby.

The Falcon ruggers virtually locked up their twenty third Mid-American Conference club rugby championship by defeating Toledo 41-0 and Miami University 48-0. At the same time, BG also won the first round of the Midwest regional with the Miami win while tagging the RedHawks with two additional losses at scores of 10-0 and 22-15.

“We’ve been so focused on going to the nationals the past few years that winning the MAC has become almost a forgotten given,” BG head coach Roger Mazzarella said.

A given or not, there is no doubt of the Falcons’ dominance in the conference. Over the past decade, BG has posted a 162-4 record in conference play.

Their chief rival over the championship run has been Miami, who BG has topped in 69 of their 70 meetings.

“Ain’t no Miami whammy in rugby,” Mazzarella said.

Miami is showing improvements thanks to a coaching change and a new commitment to the sport. This was evident on Saturday.

The RedHawks, obviously fooled by the complexity of the Falcon attack, gave ground and points with great reluctance.

“I thought we hung with BG pretty well today,” Miami coach Kevin Kettredge said. “The difference was that BG took every mistake we made and turned it into gold.”

Helping contribute to those mistakes was the switch of BG captain Vince Strapoli from scrum half to flanker.

“We had a good scrum half waiting in the wings,” Mazzarella said. “This will free Vinnie from the responsibility of being tied to the scrum and turn him loose to harass and disrupt the opposition’s offense.”

Quickly getting down to business, Staropoli knocked loose a ball that was picked up by win Dave Demings who waltzed in untouched to score the only points BG would need. Five minutes later, Demings cushioned the lead further with a burst up the middle to score under the posts.

Hoping to open up space in the backfield, the Falcons turned their forwards loose in the latter part of the first half. Catching Miami under defending in tight in the scrum, hooker Rob Pace, prop Andrew Hughes and eight-man Johann Ackermann scored tries to finally break the game open.

Fly half Derek Imes’ two conversions made it 29-0, and a game that started with so much promise for the RedHawks was now looking quite favorable for the Falcons.

BG extended their lead and finished off Miami 48-0.

While Miami showed some offensive punch for the first time all day in the second match, the result was tempered but no different as the Falcons won 10-0. Fullback Ben Gutek swept the end for a try while eight man Bryan Kupper dragged a bevy of would-be tacklers over the goal line for another.

The Falcons then edged Miami 22-15 in a scrappy and hard fought nightcap of the triple header. Wing James Kuper had his best day of his career when he scored a pair of tries. Rookie Danny Brandenstein scored a solo try while Gutek landed a penalty goal and two conversions.

The Falcons crushed Toledo 41-0 in a warmup to the MAC double header with Miami. Ackermann did the vast majority of damage, scoring three tries while kicking the conversions for all three. Center Allen Allred, prop Bryan LaMore, lock Mike Travis and eight-man Tyler Tucker all weighed in with solo tries in BG’s fifth shutout of the season.

Now 12-1, the ninth ranked Falcons travel to Kalamazoo to take on Western Michigan in the final MAC tilt of the year. A victory will leave BG undefeated in the MAC and give them their 23rd straight MAC championship.