Coronado Rugby was away for the first game of the season against Mission Bay High School, which we played in the Division Final last year. Coronado won the division title in a very exciting game last year and we knew Mission Bay was going to be even tougher this year.
Our 2022 team is led by a powerhouse of a man and a great leader Asa Valdivia. Asa is supported by assistant team captains, fellow seniors Hudson Bartell and Joe Williamson.
Unlike other sports, once the game starts, the players are in charge and are forced to rely on each other without much input from the coaches on the sidelines. Coronado was particularly limited on this occasion as a third of the team was sick. This reduced our number to the absolute minimum of 15 players, three of which were freshmen. This meant no substitutions would be available and any injuries would result in the team taking a player down. Undeterred, Coronado took to the field with their usual swagger, knowing that any adversity will be overcome by their aggressive winning attitude, superior fitness and superb coaching from the coaching team of Buck Martin, Billy Atkins and Santos Trujillo.
The match started promisingly with Coronado capturing Mission Bay deep in their own territory. Coronado had won a lineout, and this is how rugby brings the ball back into play after a player goes out of bounds. It is a dynamic competition where teams lift players into the air to compete for the ball. Coronado has excellent lineouts that they often turn into driving mauls. For those new to rugby, a maul is when players band together to propel the ball forward. We usually score in this process, but Mission Bay had done their homework and they used a brutal tactic of not going into the maul, winning a penalty.
After the penalty and some kicking back and forth, Coronado was now near their own try-line with a scrum awarded to Mission Bay. A scrum is how rugby resumes play after a penalty. In a scrum, the strongest players from each team come together and try to drive each other away from the ball as it is fed to the center.
Coronado had a huge push against Mission Bay and forced them back, giving Elias Valdivia, Calvin Berkley and one of our great freshmen Jalen Rouzier time to do a try-saving tackle and eventually win a turnover. Berkley was still trapped deep in our territory, but had a breakaway run that took the ball deep into Mission Bay territory. Flyhalf Williamson wanted to speed up the game and made a quick restart after a penalty and passed the ball to our inner center Sebastian Tucker who made a great pass to outside center Brady Palmer who then grabbed the ball down the sideline before finally being tackled .
Coronado felt blood in the water and became more tenacious, attacking quickly from all parts of the field. Mission Bay conceded another penalty and set up another Coronado lineout just outside the Mission Bay goal line. Coronado’s hooker Axel Hernandez threw a beautiful lineout pass to Elias Valdivia that was lifted high in the air by Asa Valdivia and Andrew Urquizu. Elias Valdivia tipped it back to scrum half Sean Kelley, who passed it on to one of our monster forward Blake Baxter. Baxter ran hard, pulling in the defense before finally being knocked down. Kelley quickly got into the ruck and passed the ball to flyhalf Williamson who dodged a tackler and then ran in the first score for Coronado. Coronado missed the conversion and made the score 5-0.
Mission Bay was shown a yellow card for not rolling away after a tackle after repeated fouls. The yellow card sends a player to the Sin Bin for 10 minutes, reducing Mission Bay to fourteen players. Elias Valdivia saw an opening, took a nice pass from Kelley, then dodged three tacklers who ran forty yards for Coronado’s second attempt. Bartell made the conversion to make it 12-0.
On Coronado’s next possession, Palmer broke away and took the ball to Mission Bay’s 20-yard line. Loosely forward Berkley went into beast mode, repeatedly driving the ball quickly and aggressively near the Mission Bay try-line before Baxter conferred the ball for the next try. Bartell made the conversion and made it 19-0 at halftime.
The second half started with Coronado quickly trapping Mission Bay deep in their own half. Outward wing Dean Wilkinson picked up a loose ball and set up a power run from Elias Valdivia before a high tackle penalty halted his progress. Asa Valdivia quickly resumed play after the penalty, running through Mission Bay defenders like a T-Rex running through a ladder factory before scoring the first try of the second half. Coronado would miss the conversion, but Asa Valdivia left the rest of the game due to an ankle injury.
Coronado should now have to play the rest of the game with one player less with a 24-0 lead. Mission Bay would quickly take advantage of scoring their first try after a string of good plays, but they were never able to keep up the momentum and had to play defensively for most of the game. Strikers Urquizu, Alex Diaz and Geraldo Cardillo had several hard runs and helped maintain possession with some great rucks. Elias Valdivia would score a second try and Palmer scored his first try as a Coronado Islander.
In challenging conditions, Coronado was able to dominate a very good Mission Bay Team and won 36-5.
We are certainly off to a good start and you should be proud of your Islanders Rugby Team. We’re home to Steel Canyon this Friday, January 14 with a 5:00 PM kick-off.