Adam Turer, email@example.com:11 p.m. EDT June 5, 2016
For the second time in five years, the Lakota Jets are Division II rugby state champions.
The Jets prevailed for a hard-fought double overtime victory over Avon Lake on June 4, winning 12-7. Austin Baker and Harrison Clark, both Lakota West seniors, opened the scoring. Baker scored the first try of the match, and Clark capped it off with a two-point conversion.
The only undefeated Division II teams in the state played the rest of the match as the slugfest that was expected. Avon Lake tied the match before the half, and the teams entered the break knotted at seven. The second half was a defensive standoff. More than once, the Jets forced turnovers on the goal line to prevent Avon Lake tries.
“This was an immensive defensive effort from our squad,” said Jets coach Hennie Peters. “These kids are just tough.”
Following the first five minute overtime period, the score remained 7-7. In the second extra frame, Mason senior Dan Marron scored the game-winner. The Jets remained stout on defense to preserve the victory and a perfect season. Lakota finished the season 9-0.
“These kids told me at the beginning of the season that they were going to win state,” said Peters. “They believed in themselves and worked to achieve their goals.”
Although they entered the tournament undefeated, and won the D2 state title the last time they played in the division, the Jets entered the championship match as the underdog. Avon Lake was also undefeated and had a home field advantage playing in nearby Fairview Park, outside of Cleveland. The Jets embraced their role of the underdog road team.
“If you’re not expected to win, it takes some of the pressure off,” said Peters. “It makes the win that much sweeter.”
Victories over Walnut Hills and Perrysburg in the tournament led the Jets back to the state final. Lakota carried regular season momentum into the postseason. Victories over Division I programs St. Xavier and Moeller gave Lakota confidence that it could play with any team in the state, despite its small numbers.
“That just made the boys believe in themselves,” said Peters of the early-season victory over Moeller. “At that point, they realized they could do it.”
The Jets have a roster of just 19 players, but all 19 managed to stay healthy and finish the season. They continued to find scoring depth later in the season and came together as a team. That allowed them to reach their goal of a state championship.
“The last three to four weeks, they really started supporting each other and playing together as a team, much more than as individuals,” said Peters. “We kept on getting better throughout the season. The more they played, the better they got.”
In 2016 Ohio high school rugby, nobody in Division II was better than the Lakota Jets.