Hail pounded the Camas rugby players like a ton of bricks, but there was no stopping the Mean Machine.
Call it icing on the cake, or a cold bath to sooth all of those aches and pains, but Camas was only minutes away from celebrating a 17-5 victory over Polk County April 2, at Skyridge Middle School in Camas.
“I got a fat lip, but it was worth it for that first win,” said Camas High School senior player Tanner Lupton. “Winning is the best feeling ever. It’s fun for the whole team to experience this together.
“I think this team is going places,” he added. “After today, anything feels possible.”
Lupton scored a huge five points for the Mean Machine on a fumbled handoff by Polk in front of the end zone. Hanini Buchanan pounced the Polk ball handler like a tiger and jarred the ball loose. Lupton snagged the hot potato and saw nothing but daylight.
“All I remember about that play is the ball bouncing around like crazy,” he said. “I tackled two kids, looked up and the ball was right there. I reached for it and ran as fast as I could across the goal line.
“It felt really good for our team to come up with a big play like that,” Lupton added. “It gave us a lot of momentum.”
Camas showed some amazing teamwork to move the ball and to prevent Polk from scoring any more points. One of the opposing runners appeared to be on his way to the end zone, when Nolan Valenter blind-sided him with a thunderous hit and knocked him out of bounds.
“The morale of the team was so high, there was no way we were going to let them score,” Lupton said. “We all wanted this win, and we got it.”
Both teams showed tremendous resolve and determination to move the ball from one end of the field to the other, and yet it just seemed to bounce everywhere.
“It felt great to see the ball moving around like that,” Lupton said. “That’s what makes the game fun to watch, when you see all the hard hits, rucking, passing and good running.”
A ruck is one of the trademark plays of rugby. The ball is placed on the ground, while both teams use brute force to push each other back. The ball can only be moved out of the scramble by the feet of each player. Once a team has possession, they can pick the ball up and run with it, pass it or kick it away.
Valenter gained several yards out of the ruck for Camas. He also made two conversion kicks and a penalty kick. Head coach Aisea Vailea awarded Valenter “Player of the Match” honors.
“I can’t find the right words to explain what I’m feeling right now. I’m just so excited,” Vailea said. “These boys don’t look like rookies anymore. They look like they have been playing this game for a long time.”
After a bye week, the Camas rugby team is back in action Saturday. The Mean Machine faces Lincoln/Westside at Delta Park, in Portland. The game begins at noon. Camas and Polk County play again Saturday, April 23, 1 p.m., at Western Oregon University. The Mean Machine hosts Pendleton Saturday, April 30, 10:30 a.m., at Skyridge Middle School.
“The most important thing for us is to keep having fun,” Vailea said. “You saw how excited the players were after this game. That’s the reason why I am doing this.”