Bearden sevens rugby team chasing state title

Tyler Hotz, Staff Writer

Most people around the state and the country have not heard much about the game of rugby, but it is starting to get a foothold in Tennessee.

Rugby has been an organized sport inside the state for around 15 years, according to Bearden assistant coach Ethan Rosenblum, and like other up-and-coming sports, it has been through cycles of popularity.

“There has been a push to have single school teams instead of area teams,” Coach Rosenblum said. “Some schools such as Powell have been lost because of this, but the quality of play has been improving.”

Rugby, which shares many similarities with football and a few with soccer, has now emerged as a strong program at Bearden.

Bearden competes in the Tennessee Rugby Association (TRA) and the district or conference they play in is the Smokey Mountain Athletic Conference (SMAC). The fall season usually revolves around a tournament format and runs from October to December.

The scoring system in rugby has a close relation to football. A try is exactly like a touchdown, but it is worth five points. In addition, a conversion kick is similar to an extra point, but it yields two points rather than one.

Football and rugby have much in common, but have one striking difference, which is that the ball cannot be thrown forward. Instead, it is pitched from side to side to methodically to move the ball into the try zone.

There are two types of rugby, and they deal with how many players are on the field at a certain time. 15s (15 players on both teams) is the type of rugby that is often played in the spring and is a continuous 60-minute game at the high school level. Sevens (seven players on both teams) is played in the fall and consists of two seven-minute halves. This may seem short, but teams normally play five of these short games a day.

“Sevens is a much faster and more strenuous game than 15s,” junior Tommy Lane said. “Everyone has to always be working because it is so intense.”

Bearden finished third in the state last year in sevens and returns key assets such as Brandon Reymond, Tommy Lane, Brad Williams, and Ben Schwartz.

The first three of the players mentioned above traveled to Las Vegas earlier this year to display their talent in a player’s showcase.

In addition, the Bulldogs are lead by experienced head coach Marty Bradley who also happens to be the rugby coach at the University of Tennessee.

At the first practice of the season, the team sat down and marked down its goals for this season.

“We have some secondary goals such as beating teams we’ve lost to in the past such as Ravenwood, South Doyle, and Father Ryan,” Coach Rosenblum said. “However, our main goal is to win the state championship in sevens.

“That has been our ultimate goal the past four years now.”

Players have also tried to improve their games outside of team-organized activities.

“Many of our players (including myself) have started doing personal training with coach Dunstan Kendrick,” senior Ben Schwartz said. “I think it will give us an edge over our competition.

“I have no doubt that we will continue to be the conference champions and hopefully win state this year.”