Valley Panthers vs. Canby /// Photo courtesy Rugby Oregon. See more photos.
Oregon held its final four for both the club and varsity high school divisions. As expected, Grant and Lady Barbarians won their respective club semifinals convincingly, while varsity leaders Valley Panthers and Reynolds advance to the final after solid wins Saturday.
Grant entered the club post-season as the number one seed and faced an anemic North Clackamas in the semifinals. The Generals had to lend the #4 seed some players, but Grant made the best of a frustrating situation.
“I gave one of the [A’au] twins to them so my kids would have to tackle the power,” Grant coach Eric Zimmerman strategized. “Also moved more senior players over [to North Clackamas] in the second half so we could work on tackling. … We moved the ball fast and did some [grubbers] to change it up a bit.
“I was pleased with the work rate throughout the match, responsiveness to last week’s focused trainings, and dynamic play in the loose,” Grant assistant coach Sherri Michl said of the 132-19 win (which is officially recorded as a 35-0 forfeit win). “The principles of the game seem to be clicking finally for our new players, and our experienced players are stepping up their communication and leadership to bring more structure for those new players.”
Senior newcomer Hayle Meyerhoff has turned corner. Zimmerman indicated that the natural athlete has finally figured out how to use her body and really started running through people against North Clackamas. Junior Elise Abrams was also impressive off of the tee, slotting conversions from all over the pitch. The team still missed the leadership of senior Sui A’au, who was still injured last weekend; however, the staff is hopeful that the All American will return for the club final.
“That will make a big difference,” Zimmerman confirmed.
Beaverton handled #3 Battle Ground to a 60-7 decision. The Lady Barbarians defeated Grant in the team’s last meeting, and the entire state is eager for the rematch that will determine the league champion.
In the varsity division, coach Jeremy Moore’s predictions came true: His Valley Panthers will play Reynolds in the championship this weekend. Reynolds defeated Linn Benton 59-12 in Saturday’s semifinals, while Valley Panthers shut out Canby 75-0. The finalists played each other in the first week of the season, and Valley Panthers triumphed 55-22.
“We started out a little sluggish on the attack versus Canby, and they had a strong first 10 minutes,” Moore reported. “Our structure was a bit off the first half, but we were up 25-0 at the break. At the huddle I had words to say about our play. We went back out and things clicked – our communication was spot-on, and everything evolved from there.”
Halfbacks Samantha Barker and Legacy Adams directed the turn-around, and it was the forwards’ play that highlighted the pull-away.
Prop Samantha Arciga, flanker Jordan Johnson and No. 8 Kelsey Johnson were the driving forces propelling go-forward ball, and the rest of the pack was diligent in support. Lock Maricela Lopez was especially responsive at the breakdowns and did a good job as a newcomer.
The varsity and club champions will be determined Saturday, and the two victors will compete in the Cup Championship – winner takes all – on Friday, June 3.