News and Announcements
Head 7s and 15s Coach Michael “Beaver” Burch: Coach Burch began his playing career in 1999 with Drexel University where he was named to both EPRU and MARFU All Star teams. His playing career continued with Schuylkill River from 2003-2011 where he was Club Captain for 4 seasons and qualified for Nationals in 7s twice, including a National 2nd place finish in 2011, and for 15s in 2006. Coach Burch was also named to Schuylkill River’s All-Time 10 Year Anniversary Team.
Coach Burch has served as Drexel’s Head Coach in both 15s and 7s from September of 2011 to the present while also serving as a Schuylkill River Assistant 7s Coach from 2012-2016, Associate Head 7s Coach in 2017 and Head 7s Coach in 2018. At Drexel his teams have participated in USA Rugby Collegiate Championships as well as the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) sponsored by Penn Mutual.
As a coach in Schuylkill River’s 7s program Coach Burch has participated in Nationals 6 times and has won 4 MAC Championships. He also played a key role in establishing Schuylkill’s U-23 Academy program which won the MAC Open Division in 2016 and 2017 and came in second place in 2018.
U23 Academy 7s Head Coach Biddy Boyle: Coach Boyle was an accomplished player on the field who played from 1977 to 2004 for Blackthorn Rugby, Philly-Whitemarsh, the EPRU All-Star team and the Atlantis Rugby Select Side 7s teams.
As a 7s coach Biddy has coached Blackthorn, Philly-Whitemarsh, Boddington, Wilmington, the MARFU All Stars, University of Delaware and Atlantis. He currently serves as the Head Coach for our U23 Academy side, Villanova University, and LaSalle High School. Coach Boyle is also serving as a coach for The North American Lions in Rugby Town and is the Director of 7s for Atlantis.
Coach Boyle holds the incredible distinction of having won a National Championship both as a player as a coach.
7s Associate Head Coach Chris Ryan: Coach Ryan has been involved with rugby for over 30+ years. He started playing at Conestoga High School in 1980 and continued to play until a torn biceps muscle stopped his career at the age of 39. He played and was selected at every position on the pitch. The clubs he played for include: Conestoga High School, East Carolina University, Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC, Bethlehem RFC and is player 157 of Atlantis, an invitational US 7s touring side.
He began coaching while still playing. He has honed his craft under and with a who’s who of American rugby coaches: Goerge Betzler USA Men’s 15s and 7s and Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC, Peter Stienberg USA Women’s 15s and 7s, Keystone RFC, Ray Cornbill USA Men’s 15s and 7s, Andrew Fautley USA Men’s and Women’s 7s, New York Rugby Club, Al Caravelli USA Men’s and Women’s 7s, Peter Bagetta USA Women’s 15s and 7s, Keystone RFC, Julie McCoy USA Women’s 7s and 15s, Atlantis 7s. And last, but not least Emil Signes Princeton University, USA Men’s 7s, USA Women’s 15s and 7s, Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC, Bethlehem RFC, Atllantis RFC.
Chris has won as a head coach or assistant 7 National Championships, placed 2nd three times and third 6 times. He is currently the Head Coach for Atlantis Elite Level Men’s 7s, and also the Head Coach for the Philadelphia Elite City 7s team. He has been coaching on and off at Princeton since 2005 as an assistant to Emil Signes and became the Head Coach in the fall of 2013. And he has also been the assistant for the USA women’s 7s team under two different head coaches. He has been involved at Schuylkill River since 2011, when the 7s team took 2nd place in the nation and lost only two games all year long.
7s and 15s Skills and Fitness Coach Josh Mastromatto: Coach Mastromatto came to the game of rugby after he enjoyed a tremendous football career for Kutztown University where he totaled approximately 5000 all-purpose yards in his career and scored 38 touchdowns. The team went 30-3 over his final 3 seasons after going 2-8 his freshman year and this was in large part due to his performance as a 3 time All-Conference running back and All-American all-purpose player. Coach Mastromatto has been named to Kutztown Football’s All-Decade team and has been inducted into the Kutztown University All-Time Team.
From there Coach Mastromatto embarked on a professional football career and ended up playing for the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena Football League. After retiring from football Coach Mastromatto gave rugby a try and got his start as a resident with the Tiger Academy in North Carolina. He played in the famous Serevi Town 7s tournament with both Tiger as well as Atlantis and for 15s he played with Southern Pines who earned a trip to the D3 National Semi-Finals.
He then moved to Philadelphia and tried a little rugby league with the Philadelphia Fight before joining Schuylkill River. Coach Mastromatto was the MVP of Schuylkill’s 7s program in 2017 and earned a trip to Nationals with the Club. As a fun fact, he also enjoyed a short tenure on the Philadelphia 76ers dunk team.
7s Assistant Coach and 15s Backs Coach Jamie Williams: Coach Williams grew up playing rugby in England and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our club. Coach Williams’ playing career went from 1988-2015 with stops at Bristol Grammar School, Chew Valley RFC, Nottingham University, Clifton RFC, Baltimore-Chesapeake RFC, and Schuylkill River.
Coach Williams began his coaching career in 2015 and has coached Baltimore-Chesapeake as well as the Beltway Elite 7s program. As another former Schuylkill player rejoining the Club on the coaching staff Coach Williams knows what our Club is all about and is ready to help us get the job done!
7s Assistant Coach Ryan McHugh: Ryan grew up in the Northeast Frankford section of Philadelphia and graduated from Roman Catholic High School before attending St. Joseph’s University and picking up the game of rugby along the way. In his professional life Ryan is small business owner who runs a painting company.
As a rugby player/admin Ryan has done it all. His past and present coaching positions include Schuylkill River’s 7s open side and U-19 side, Roman Catholic, Neumann University, Temple University and Princeton University. Ryan has also volunteered with the Northeast Frankford Boys and Girls Club, the Wissahickon Braves, and the Narberth Otters flag rugby program. Ryan has also earned MVP honors 5 times in his men’s club rugby career and has served on various Boards in all positions.
Ryan has been a key component in Schuylkill’s commitment to giving back to the local community and connecting with the Philadelphia youth through rugby through his tireless involvement in our numerous youth initiatives. As he enters the twilight years of his playing career it is admirable to see his commitment to passing along the game of rugby to the next generation.
Skill Rugby started the summer 7s season on a strong note by winning Lehigh Valley 7s over the weekend. Additionally, the team welcomed back Premier side players Ben Janssen, Bruce Dolan, and Matt Henderson from injury. After the tournament the coaching staff was excited about all of the young talent on the team and mentioned several players in particular.
The biggest impact on the day came from Danny Giannascoli who recently graduated from Loyola and made his first appearance in a Schuylkill River uniform. Dan had at least 8 combined tries and assists throughout the day playing for our top side and his most important try was a 50 meter break in the second half of the championship match which gave us the lead for good. According to the coaches “all week in practice the coaching staff could see Dan’s athletic abilities that were showcased on Saturday, but most impressive was Dan’s ability to keep his composure and excel in the most pressure filled moments of the tournament. Dan has a bright summer ahead of him here.”
Also joining us from Loyola is Jack Ramizes who made his Skill Rugby debut with the U23 side and instantly showed his ability to stretch the field with at least 4 tries on the day. None were more impressive than a 60 plus meter sprint down the sidelines that left Coach Mastromatto, a former speedster himself, more than just a little impressed. Coach Stro later said “that run looked effortless, I asked Jack on the sidelines if he even hit top speed on that run because he looked like he was in light stride while pulling away from defenders that initially had good angles. Honestly though, I was more impressed by his ability to tackle. Most speed guys shy away from contact but he stood out in the middle of our defensive alignment with countless solo tackles.”
Another U23 player who caught the Coaching Staff’s eye was Xavier Steward. X bring serious speed to the edge of our U23 side and scored three quick tries before shutting it down for the day. X is arguable the most fashionable player on the team and on the field he has the unique ability to score from anywhere. Coach Mastromatto says “X is a guy to me that has a lot of upside potential on the wind. You could see the progression from last year early on in the day with breakaway tries. He has a lot of raw ability that will continue to develop. Once he has all of the aspects of his game molded together he will be a serious problem for opposing teams.”
Justin Lopez, fresh off of an appearance for the Dominican Republic National Team was a clear standout early on with his physicality both offensively and defensively. His day was cut short but not before putting up 3 work horse style tries. Justin is no rookie to big 7s tournaments and that experience was well showcased on Saturday. The coaches said “Justin definitely caught our eye early on in the U23 games with his defense. There was one series we watched him control the tackle, poach the ball, stay on his feet and shake off two defenders for a try – that’s rare ability. He’s somebody we know we’ll see do big things all summer here.”
Coach Mastromatto also mentioned three guys from Kutztown; Mike Hubble, Keyon McCloud-Holman, and Anthony Donatelli who had some highlights on the day including a try from Keyon in the corner where he ran over the sweeper. Anthony from Delaware made a strong debut with 2 tries for the U23 Academy and was joined by Delaware teammate Jenko who had an encouraging start and lastly Temple’s Adam Shapiro looked really good at sweeper and Brendan Stein from Holy Family showed a lot of growth throughout the day and looks poised to continue developing into a good player.
The next tournament is Saturday June 15 at North Penn.
In what has become an annual tradition Schuylkill River had another big weekend at the Collegiate Rugby Championship (https://www.usasevenscrc.com) in Chester PA last weekend. Philadelphia rugby’s flagship 7s team had 14 active players compete in the collegiate event in addition to our U19 side’s participation in the high school rugby championship.
In the NSCRO Division Loyola took third place in the country in large part thanks to Danny Gianascoli and Jack Ramirez and the Freedom Cup featured Drexel with 2017 All-American Kyle Kent and Louis Baeza. What makes these two teams notable is the fact that Gianascoli will now be joining his brother Matt as a member of Skill Rugby while Kent’s brother Karl joined the family by playing for our U19 side.
Additional Freedom Cup participants included Villanova with PJ Maher, West Chester with Mike Salloum and Rowan with Armani Mendez. All three of these guys are talented young rugby players and it’s great to have an event like this in our background to enable them to continue developing their skills.
In the Champions Division Kutztown enjoyed a top 4 finish with Sam Devine and Daquan Perry on the roster, St. Joe’s featured a trio of Skill Rugby players with Mikey Hoffman, Nick Ballas, and Finn Tuite, Temple had Adam Shapiro on their team, and Boston College featured Riley Curtin.
We look forward to developing even more talent in the summer of 2019 and continuing to work on our grass roots Philadelphia rugby initiatives to keep providing opportunities for local talent to shine in this event.
Over the weekend of May 31 – June 2 Schuylkill River’s U-19 program participated in the High School Rugby Championship, part of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship in Chester, PA. A huge thank you goes out to Coaches Greg Mininger and Ryan McHugh who have once again donated their time to support this initiative and provide the players with an awesome weekend!
The team was made up of players from Roman Catholic High School, the North Philadelphia Nomads, the Narberth Otters, and the Maryland Stingers. Due weather related scheduling issues the players came into the event with very little 7s experience and struggled in the early going but continued to improve throughout the weekend culminating in a 27-5 victory in the final match of the weekend.
A highlight of the weekend for many of the players was having the opportunity to watch high level collegiate 7s in person for the first time. As a result of attending this event many of them have been motivated to continue their playing careers beyond high school and we look forward to having an opportunity to help them keep developing as members of our U23 program for years to come.
For the second season in a row Ben Janssen has been named Captain of Schuylkill River’s 7s program. To get to know more about Ben’s background and what he brings to the table check out the interview he recently did for us.
1. What is your rugby background?
I first played in high school with Coatesville Rugby Club, a club that unfortunately received no support from the school and has since disbanded, during that time I also played with Brandywine Men’s Club and eventually found my way to Penn State Men’s Rugby Club. Penn State opened the door to the select sides of Atlantis and representing Philadelphia in the Select Cities tournament in Houston where I met Pudge (Chris Ryan). After the Select Cities tournament, I knew I wanted to play on whatever team he was coaching and that brought me to Schuylkill River.
2. What notable accomplishments do you have in 7s and what sort of select side representation have you been involved in?
As mentioned above I played with Atlantis and Philadelphia Selects but I was also back-to-back first team Big Ten and had the privileged of competing in the first 5 CRCs.
3. What are you going to bring to the table as the Captain of Schuylkill’s 7s program and how would you describe your leadership style?
Well first and foremost I think everyone on the team, the rugby community, possibly the planet knows how much I hate losing so I think that will drive performance but I also bring a solid range of knowledge and a never say die work ethic to the team. When I’m on the field I’m running as hard and as fast as I can till the game ends or you pull me from the field. In the really gritty minutes of sevens I think guys respect a person who lays it on the line for the team.
4. Schuylkill’s 7s program is much more than just the Premier side. How do you intend to help develop the players on the U-23 side and help the less experienced players learn the game?
Aside from recently taking up coaching our U19 program, I start with recruiting. It’s really sad to me that there are not more Penn State Men’s club Alumni in the Philly area willing to play high level rugby so I go after players from my alma mater first. From PSU I move onto the connections I have made throughout my rugby career to pull in as many players as possible. Then comes development, I believe one of the greatest ways elevate your play is to play against higher competition. Collegiate athletes, recent graduates and less experienced players can come to Schuylkill knowing they will get better because they will be competing against a nationally competitive side every practice. Our coaching staff and senior players are exceptional at explaining our style of play and will field any question a younger or less experienced player may have. Schuylkill also has the advantage of entering multiple teams into tournaments and frequently get to watch one another play. This gives the more experienced players an opportunity to watch the U23 side play and critique their individual and team play, conversely the U23 and open sides get to watch the premier at a high level and learn from our mistakes and what we do well.
5. Speaking of helping less experienced players learn the game, you previously helped coach Schuylkill’s first ever U-19 team at the High School Rugby Championship as part of the Collegiate Rugby Championship that takes place in Chester every year. How would you describe that experience and what have you learned from it?
Being a first time coach was incredible. Teaching our U19 players the game I love and seeing their ability to learn and fall in love with it was an experience I will never forget and hope to continue to do. I learned areas where I need to improve as a player and a teacher and learned somehow I am more psychotic on the sidelines as a coach than on the field as a player…… definitely an area for improvement.
6. What do you most look forward to as a member of Schuylkill’s 7s program?
I love everything about sevens; the fitness, the training, all day tournaments, the brotherhood you form with your teammates, and especially winning. My wife has six national championships (four 15s and two 7s) and I have 0, SRE 7s puts me I a solid position to attempt to narrow that gap as we’re nationally completive every year.
7. If someone was on the fence about coming to play 7s for Schuylkill River what would you want them to know?
If you want to become a better rugby player, come play with us. Even if you do not have the premier side time commitment we can accommodate whatever level of 7s you are looking to play but I can guarantee you will get significantly better throughout the summer. No other program in the area will develop your game like Schuylkill.
Bonus Question: You scored a match winning try for Penn State at the Collegiate Rugby Championship against Ohio State and Nate Ebner who currently plays for the New England Patriots. Is it true that the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Superbowl 52 with a backup quarterback and are currently the defending Superbowl champs?
It is in fact true, I like to believe the seeds of the patriots defeat were created that day in 2011. I’m sure the tale of a PA team snatching victory from the jaws of defeat of a “better” team spread far and wide and shook the patriots team to the core.