Mike Scarcella was up-front with his prom date.
“I told her I was going to be in bed by 11 o’clock,” said the Bishop Hendricken senior.
His teammates on the Hendricken rugby team all made similar vows.
They had a championship to win.
On Saturday – the day after the school’s senior prom – the Hawks captured the Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization Division 1 title with a 21-19 victory over Belmont (Mass.) High School.
The dedication that could make a team of high school boys go to bed early on prom night paved the way for the win. It was the same dedication that defined the Hawks’ season.
“We’ve been together since our freshman year,” said senior Hunter Boesch. “So much of this team is made up of seniors that we had a bond unlike any team we played. It was so much more morale than ability.”
Hendricken has long been the only high school in Rhode Island that plays rugby at a competitive level. In recent years, the Hawks have played in the Massachusetts league and they won the circuit’s end-of-season tournament in 2012. The title this year is the program’s first since MYRO has held a formal championship.
The Hawks had a strong regular season and had the opportunity to play overseas in an April trip to Wales and England. When head coach Brian Moore saw the MYRO championship schedule, he was a little worried – but only a little.
“They had their senior prom so it was a little nerve-wracking,” Moore said. “To their credit, they all went home early after the dance and were well-rested. That’s how much they wanted it.”
Said senior Dallas Sauer: “We all knew what we had to do. It was an easy choice.”
The Hawks faced a Belmont team that’s fast becoming a rival, thanks to Belmont’s upset of Hendricken in last year’s championship.
This time, Hendricken was in control. Scarcella, Bryce Famiano and Joey Chandarasanti scored tries, and Robert Campbell was three-for-three on conversion kicks. When Belmont rallied from a 14-0 deficit to make it 21-19, it missed a kick, leaving Campbell’s conversions as the difference.
“They upset us last year and we paid them back this year,” Moore said. “It was a great game. We have a good group of seniors. They had a little sour taste after last year so it was good for them to win it.”
The Hawks had beaten Belmont in the regular season, but the same thing had happened last year, when they lost in the finals.
They didn’t let it happen again.
“We knew we were better than them,” Boesch said. “We had gone overseas and really progressed our skills. We knew we could use everything we learned to our advantage. They were coming at us the entire time. We may have been down at some points, but we were never out. We kept scrapping.”
On Memorial Day, the Hawks celebrated with their predecessors at the rugby program’s annual alumni game. The alumni didn’t take it easy on them, though, and the game finished in a tie.
A year from now, many of the championship players will be on the alumni side. Every senior plans to play in college, as Hendricken’s unique rugby tradition continues.
“Whether they’re footballers, soccer players, wrestlers, they’re all rugby guys in the spring,” Moore said.
And they’re champs.
“Rugby is just such a unique thing that Hendricken has and that we as a team have,” Scarcella said. “The fact that we all stuck together for four years and win the Massachusetts state championship as a Rhode Island team, it was just a great feeling.”