News and Announcements
Schuylkill River Rugby had our awards banquet at IATSE Ballroom on February 23. It was a fun evening for everyone involves and gave past and present Skill players and opportunity to swap stories, enjoy each other’s company, and hand out some awards. The MC for the evening was Advisory Committee member Carlo Sena who was assisted by the Executive Board of Dan Callahan, Dave Codell, Ryan McHugh, Ricky Schneider, and Hunter Valentine, in setting up the evening’s festivities.
The awards themselves were presented by Head Coach Mike Burch on behalf of the Coaching Staff which includes Burch, Biddy Boyle, Jack Bukowski, Jon Grasso, Josh Mastromatto, Ryan McHugh, Jamie Pearce-Williams, and Chris Ryan. Ever present in his role between the Board and Staff was Director of Rugby Pat Boyle making sure things went smoothly.
Presented below are the notes from the awards presenters as well as the Hall of Fame induction speeches given on behalf of Tommy Richards and Gerry Timothy. With their inductions they join Chris Bailey, Bill Jalbert, Michael Matotek, Jason Siddel, Brian Boyle, Chet Radecki, John McMullen, Steve Green, George Connell, Jim Hegarty, Jamie Catrambone, Terry Wendelken, John Hughes, Gary Kribbs, Len Borcky, Joe Howard, Michael Leland, Dave Wixted, and Alex Yankowsky in our Hall of Fame.
15s Award Winners
D1 Backs: Brian Keon
Brian is leading the D1 team in points scored. His leadership and composure at fly-half alleviates any pressure for the other 14 players on the pitch with him.
D1 Forwards: Brad Volm
Brad is the anchor of our pack. His tackling and pressure on defense was unmatched.
D3 Backs: Jabari Johnson
Jabari constantly pushed everyone in front of him. Jabari was not only a gifted attacker but he also made a difference with his punishing tackles. The coaches are excited to see what he has for the future.
D3 Forwards Jeff Hall
Jeff not only led our D3 in poaches but he also proved to be a leader on the pitch. His disruption at the breakdown enabled our side to be on the front foot.
Coaches: Geoff Mathis
Geoff played in various spots for us this past fall. His play on Saturday directly relates to his work during the week. With punishing runs Geoff put pressure on all opponents he faced this fall.
Players Player: Ian Glatts
Ian was chosen from his peers and the coaches could not agree more. One of the fittest players on the pitch Ian always seemed to make an impact when the team needed it.
Break Out Player: Sean Barnes
Sean came to us through South Carolina University. Sean ended up one of our main weapons in attack and even with a slight injury he led the D1 team in tries.
Sevens Award Winners:
Premier Player of the Year: Brain Keown
As captain of the team Brian led our premier side in points scored, tries, and minutes played.
U23 Player of the Year: John Hines
While captaining the side John became a vital player for our U23 team. Being an U23 vet he allowed Coach Boyle to shift players knowing John could play anywhere on the pitch.
U19 Player of the Year: Nick Merriam
The former Narberth Otter was the hardest working player on the U-19 team. Nick does everything the coaching staff asks for and we expect him to have a lot of success at Syracuse
Break Out Player: Louis Baeza
His work off the pitch directly related to his success on the pitch. With punishing runs and constant work at the breakdown he pushes opponents to their brink.
Coaches Award: Mitch Vanoy
This is Mitch’s second time winning this award. He pushes himself as well as others around him to reach their full potential.
Hall of Fame Inductions:
Bill Jalbert’s Speech on Behalf of Gerry Timothy
Spring 1998, Schuylkill River, entering its third year of existence, is joined by a new player. He played at Villanova, where in his words; he “turned a 4 year engineering program into a 5 year collegiate rugby career, with a minor in engineering.” Knowing a sucker when they saw one, Schuylkill leadership quickly sold him on the position of match secretary, thus launching his administrative rugby career. This was followed by a term as the club’s second president, succeeding founder Chris Bailey. Over the next 15 years, he would serve 2 more times as president, vice president, sit on the MARFU competition committee, serve as a referee, and play rugby.
He cites his notable administrative accomplishment as growing our collegiate tournament from a 1 day, 6 team event into a 20 team rugby weekend.
In 2013, he “retired” after 20 years of rugby. Two years later, our numbers swelled, and River put the call out to help fill out our D4 side. He answered that call, and helped lead our D4 side through a tough season. He claims that not sustaining a serious injury during the “comeback season” is probably his biggest accomplishment as a player, other than probably playing more “B” side matches than any other Exile.
We honor tonight’s recipient as a builder as he has never said “no” to this club. His continued commitment and willingness to put in the work have been a huge part of the club’s growth and success. And before I forget, I need to mention his wonderful wife, who has supported & tolerated his rugby addiction.
Ladies & gentlemen, please welcome our 2019 Schuylkill River Hall of Fame Inductee, Gerry Timothy.
Rob Greco’s Speech on Behalf of Tommy Richards:
Hello, I just want to start off tonight by letting everyone know that even though I’ve been congratulated 3 different times tonight on my HOF induction, I’m Rob Greco… not Tommy Richards. Now, maybe that should tell all of you something. Dave, I’ll take that award now. But seriously, I’m here tonight to induct, I’m only going to say this once cause it’s his night, Dr. Thomas Wynn Richards Junior, into the Troop HOF.
Yes, Tommy is a doctor, but don’t get excited. He won’t be saving anyone’s life tonight. He’s a doctor of history, so if your kids have a social studies test or you’re in college and have a paper due, he’s your guy. But, see Jill first, because she’s collecting all of the payments.
Before I talk about Tommy, I want to thank Codell for keeping the Troop legacy alive and well. I think I speak for everyone associated with Troop how much we appreciate it.
On to Tommy… he came to Troop as an 18 year old before playing for Penn with the 7s program. His 1st full season was the same as mine, the summer of 05. We were a strong team that year and all positions were hard fought and earned. Tommy was no exception.
I knew I liked Tommy when after practice I heard him telling someone that he should be worried about finding a job right now, but was more worried if he was going to start on Saturday. I really appreciate that, Rugby is a game that you live and breathe and that’s who Tommy always was no matter if we were competing for nationals or scraping 15 for a game. He approached it all the same way.
On the field, Tommy was a jack of trades in the forwards he could play any position, except for the ones that matter in the front row, and excelled everywhere. The only thing he never learned how to do was tackle. They were all high and he should still be in the sin bin for them.
I could go on about the inside jokes and road trip stories, but what matters more is the way he approached Troop off the field. I emailed people from the team to say some things about Tommy and resoundingly I heard that he treated everyone like family. No matter weddings or funerals, he was always there. That’s a real teammate!
On a personal level, Rugby was given me a lot in life. However, the best thing it’s given me is Tommy and Jill. We’re a part of each other’s family and without troop that never happens. So, it’s my honor to induct Tommy Richards into Schuylkill’s hall of fame.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series resumes this weekend with the USA Sevens Rugby tournament in Las Vegas. Alongside the Series event there is the Las Vegas Invitational which is believed to be the largest rugby tournament in North America with 15 divisions and 200 teams. Schuylkill River will have 9 players participating in select sides at this tournament in addition to several players participating with their college sides.
Seven of our U-23 players will be with the Rogue Samurai and two of our Premier side players will be with Atlantis. The Rogue Samurai describe themselves as a group dedicated to the Veteran community by integrating both civilians and veterans on one team to compete at various tournaments throughout the US while Atlantis is an invitational 7s rugby side whose mission is to encourage and develop American rugby by playing in domestic and international tournaments.
In order to provide some info on the guys traveling to Vegas we reached out to them with the following questions and made the profiles that appear below. 1. What college program did/do you play for? 2. How many seasons have you played 7s for Schuylkill? 3. How has playing for Schuylkill helped you develop as a 7s player? 4. What are your hopes for this tournament and what are you most looking forward to about Vegas overall? 5. What are your goals for the upcoming 7s season?
John McCurdy played for Malvern Prep and then attended the University of Delaware. This is his 4th season with Skill Rugby and he says that the culture is top notch, no one shows up to practice to go through the motions, and everyone wants to get better. Atlantis is sending a very competitive side to Vegas and John is looking forward to an opportunity to make a run for the cup and play against teams we don’t get to see at Schuylkill, including several international teams. This upcoming summer is going to a long season and John’s priority is to help the squad play consistent team defense. Everything else will come from that.
Brian Keown played for St. Joe’s Prep and then attended the University of South Carolina and is also in his 4th season with Skill Rugby. Since joining Schuylkill Brian says that he has learned a lot about the simplicity of 7s. We work to perfect the basics with a simple system that has been very successful. We also recognize each other’s individual skills and encourage everyone to seize the opportunity to make a special play. Brian credits this freedom and support with helping everyone take their game to the next level. Brian is looking forward to the high level of competition in Vegas and says that Atlantis always expects to win. Coach Mirro led them to the semi-finals last year and has put together another great group of players this year. The guys are ready to use their individual assets to come together and take it a step further this year. Brian is also really excited for this upcoming 7s season. Many of the Premier side guys have been together for the last four years which has given them great chemistry and understanding which should take us far.
Kyle Kent currently attends Drexel University and is entering his 3rd season with Skill rugby. Kyle says that playing with Schuylkill has introduced him to high competition at training and challenged him to get better in order to compete with the other players in the Club. In Vegas he is looking forward to the opportunity to play the game on a bigger stage and compete against some of the best competition in the country. This summer Kyle intends to take the next step in his development and play under control with a better understanding for the situational flow of the game.
Jabari Johnson played collegiately for Bloomsburg University and is entering his second 7s season with Skill Rugby. Playing with Schuylkill has allowed Jabari to critique his own game, recognize his weaknesses, and work to improve on becoming a better overall rugby player. In Vegas Jabari’s goal is to win and he is confident that the Rogue Samurai squad has the ability to win it all. Off the field, Jabari is excited to watch the international 7s matches taking place in Las Vegas as this will be his first opportunity to watch that level of play. Over the summer Jabari plans to improve his game and earn some quality Premier side minutes.
John Hines [editor’s note: My Grandson!] played briefly for St. Bonaventure before joining Skill Rugby in 2014. Schuylkill is the only 7s team that John has played for and he has been able to improve his game rapidly thanks to the coaching, film study, and training alongside more experienced players. In Vegas John wants to win the Cup and isn’t shy about stating that he wants to win the MVP award [editor’s note: Go get ‘em Grandson!]. He is also looking forward to playing with, and against, high level players, watching even higher level players on the international stage, and improving his game. Lastly, John is also looking forward to the after-parties and clubbing once the tournament is over. John’s goal for 7s season is to play at a Premier level and hopefully make Nationals.
Xavier Steward currently plays for the St. Joe’s Hawks and has played 4 seasons of 7s with Skill Rugby. The biggest benefit to playing for Schuylkill for Xavier has been working with more experienced players to keep up his competitive edge. His hopes for Vegas are to win the tournament and gain connections in the rugby community and over the summer he wants to earn a place on Schuylkill’s Premier side and an opportunity to play in Colorado.
Louis Baeza currently plays for Drexel University and this will be his second season with Skill Rugby. Playing for Schuylkill has helped him understand the game better and learn to play at a different tempo which has helped him improve his skills across the board. His goal in Vegas is to play the best he can for the team and help win the tournament and his goal for the upcoming summer is to become a better overall player and compete to win at every tournament.
Joe Broderick plays for Wheeling Jesuit University and is entering his second season with Skill rugby. He has also been part of Rogue Samurai for 3 years now. Schuylkill has helped Joe get better by giving him the chance to play at the next level of club 7s against D1 competition. Joe has grown his skills and learned different attacking strategies specific to 7s. In Vegas Joe is hoping to go out have some fun, score some tries, hit some rucks, and ultimately win the cup. For this upcoming 7s season Joe is hoping to build on last year’s success with the boys and increase our level of play and win more tournaments.
Dante Jacquet is also participating in the Las Vegas Invitational for the Rogue Samurai. We weren’t able get a bio from him before writing this article but Dante is a tremendous athlete who came to us from Delmarva. He is fully competent as a first receiver but really shines when he is given the opportunity to carry the ball in space and use his change of direction ability. We know that Dante has a great future in this sport and look forward to watching his continued development!
Schuylkill River Rugby hosted our annual high school clinic on Saturday February 16th. The free event was open to all high school aged athletes that wished to participate. Due to having active Schuylkill players on their coaching staffs, the North Philadelphia Nomads, Narberth Otters, and Roman Catholic High School teams were the best represented programs but the event drew players from throughout the Philadelphia area. The clinic was run by Schuylkill’s Head Coach in 15s and 7s, Mike Burch, who stated that “It was a fun day for all. We had players from all levels come together to build on their individual rugby skills. They worked hard and stayed engaged the entire time. The future of rugby in our area is bright.”
The attendees went through basic rugby skills and then broke into groups for individual skill development. Schuylkill’s players and coaches were on hand to work with their specific position groupings which gave the attendees a great opportunity to learn the drills from players who put those skills into action on a weekly basis. Narberth Otters Coach Gabe Gliwa told us that “with a lot of new talent this year and being a little light on numbers so early in the year a session like this was huge. It was a chance for our newer guys to see different aspects of the game put together and at a more upbeat pace. Beyond the different perspective on certain skills it was also a chance for our guys to hear that top level rugby teams like Schuylkill still practice the small things and that the drills we do today are just as important across all levels.”
In addition to the skill work, the teams were also able to combine and do some 15 on 15 drills in order to gain a better understanding of how to structure a team on offense and defense. By mixing the players onto different teams throughout the day they were able to work with players they don’t play alongside on a regular basis and really gain an understanding of the brotherhood that goes along with rugby. When asked for comment on the clinic the North Philadelphia Nomads Coaching staff, through Head Coach James Brunson, said “our Coaching Staff is thankful for the opportunity to our Young Men outside running around with the Rugby ball in their hands. It was great for them to interact with other Young Men who have varied experiences with the game, as well. We have a group totally new to the game this season so it was a very beneficial day for our program.”
Roman Catholic High School Coach Fred Koniecki added that “the boys from Roman Catholic want to extend a sincere thank you to the Schuylkill River coaches and players for their commitment to developing rugby in Philadelphia. Our players learned so much about the game of rugby, gained position-specific skills, and made friends from other local teams that will carry on past high school.”
As a result of the positive response that this clinic has received Schuylkill River has reached out to some of the teams involved and will be having another high school rugby clinic on Saturday March 2 in order to help these teams prepare for their league seasons.
On Saturday Schuylkill River traveled to South Jersey to participate in the Winter 7s Tournament co-hosted by the South Jersey Women’s and Men’s rugby teams. This tournament was a good way to kick off the new year and get everyone excited for the upcoming spring season, as well as the 7s season beyond that. It also gave us an opportunity to mix in some younger guys with our Premier side regulars to give them first-hand experience in our system.
Our two sides went a combined 9-1 on the day with our top side winning the tournament by defeating a very tough Wilkes-Barre side in the finals. Aaron Gray and Aaron Jolcover combined to score 15 tries throughout the day but perhaps the most impressive part of our performance was the incredibly physical play of Daquan Perry and Keyon McCloud which more or less shut down the middle of the field. Matt Tyris, Joe Osinibu, and Brad Volm were also impressive off of the re-start which clearly frustrated our opponents throughout the day and Jordan Ghyzel deserves a shout out for showing some good speed throughout the day and earning himself a very impressive turf burn. Pat Boyle had a good day on the field and as usual made contributions with his vocal leadership while Brian Keown made significant contributions with his physical leadership. Lastly, our speedsters Cody Bukowski, Matt Henderson, and Kyle Kent stretched the field which created scoring opportunities for themselves and others. All told, it was a solid, comprehensive performance from the entire roster.
After the tournament Coach Jon Grasso was pleased with the performance of the team and told the guys that they have a chance to build something special if they stick together and play as much rugby together as they can. When reached for comment Director of Rugby Pat Boyle stated that “the weekend was great and we were able to check off a couple of goals. First, we were able to help support South Jersey who have been great friends of ours through the years. Second, it was a great opportunity to play rugby in the offseason and reconnect with some of our college guys who are home on break. We were able to do all of that and also win so it was a good day of rugby with great hosts. We are really looking forward to the spring and then seeing the college boys again in the summer.”
We also reached out to Aaron “Reno” Jolcover after the tournament and he said “the only thing better than one A-A-Ron is two A-A-Rons” and he added that he’s “not sure what will last longer, the memories from winning the tournament or the scars from playing on turf in 23 degree weather.” All jokes aside, our Nevada transplant had a great day on the field and is looking forward to getting back out with the guys soon.
Schuylkill’s next match is on March 9 with our D1 side taking on Old Blue and our D3 side taking on Brooklyn.
The Mitsubishi Electric Rugby Barbados World 7s tournament took place over the weekend, once again attracting quality 7s programs from around the world. This tournament, previously known as Tobago 7s, is the longest running club rugby 7s tournament in the Caribbean and has been running for over 30 years. It is run in conjunction with the Rugby Barbados Marathon and 10K international race with the slogan “Come for the Run, Stay for the Rum, and Revel in the Rugby!”
This year’s tournament made history by moving to Kensington Oval, which is an iconic cricket venue, making it the first time that international rugby at any level was played in one of the “regional ovals.” This location actually lies in the heart of the UNESCO-designated Historic Bridgetown. The tournament also featured $30K in total prize money and had a strong social component with the local community that included traditional Christmas carol singing, and community service projects.
The Men’s Elite division was strong as usual featuring the defending champion ProjecX Waterboys from Scotland who successfully defended their title by beating the Olorun PontoButchers from Wales in the finals.
Atlantis Rugby, which was founded by former Skill Rugby 7s coach Emil Signes (who has the Club Nationals Championship trophy named after him) took third place with a roster that included 3 Schuylkill players and 2 Schuylkill coaches:
Brian Keown – Schuylkill’s Club Captain, played his high school rugby for St. Joe’s Prep and his college rugby for the University of South Carolina before joining Skill Rugby full time.
Mitch Vannoy – The pride of Christiana High School, played collegiate rugby for the University of Delaware and is currently on their coaching staff. Mitch joined the Skill Rugby 7s team in 2015 and has been on 11 tours with Atlantis. He can be seen in the upcoming Nomads movie about high school rugby in Philadelphia.
Dan Deal – Played locally with St. Augustine Prep in high school and St. Joe’s University in college. Dan is one of Skill Rugby’s best up and coming young players and also volunteers his time to help coach our U-19 7s team and do Rookie Rugby at the local boys and girls club.
Christopher “Pudge” Ryan – The Head Coach of Princeton Women’s Rugby, Coach Ryan is a longtime member of Skill Rugby’s 7s coaching staff and is widely regarded as one of the best 7s coaches in the country.
Biddy Boyle – A member of Blackthorn RFC’s “Team of the Millennium” that competed in the 1984 National Final Four, Biddy is currently the Head Coach of Skill Rugby’s U-23 Academy and he has had an incredible impact in helping to develop our young talent.