AVON LAKE — A slow start against an opponent that broke the century mark in scoring in its previous game didn’t faze the Avon Lake Rugby Club on Sunday.
The Shoremen quickly turned things around, rolling to a 43-7 win over Youngstown East to advance to the Division II state semifinals in the club sport.
The Golden Bears were coming off a 103-0 win over Northwestern and had given up only 17 points in their last three games.
But they proved no match for Avon Lake, which improved to 15-1 and will play the Miami County Bombers on Saturday in Columbus.
“We have a good mix of guys that really know how to play this game and play well together,” Avon Lake coach Steve Maynard said. “We bend, don’t break and always bounce back stronger.”
Youngstown East got on the board early when it picked off a pass and returned it for a try.
The score and some solid defense gave the Golden Bears a 7-0 lead 11 minutes in.
It was all Avon Lake after that though.
The Shoremen got on the board when Ryan Beckman converted a penalty try after being tackled at the goal line to tie the game. They scored another try and a penalty kick late in the first half to take a 15-7 lead at halftime.
Nico LaBianca had a big assist and helped control possession through the first half.
“We fell behind early on a bad pass but we didn’t let it affect us,” LaBianca said. “We just had to get back to the way we play. We had to play Shoremen rugby.”
Avon Lake dominated the second half.
Abud Salem got the Shoremen rolling, scoring on a long run after bursting through a seam. Hunter Simons kicked the conversion to extend the lead. Simons was 5-for-6 on conversions in the game.
“I take pride in being an all-around player and doing whatever it takes to help the team,” Simons said. “The entire year it’s been the same thing, if we play our game we win.”
Simons also scored a try at the 15-minute mark of the second half. The score and conversion gave the Shoremen a 36-7 lead.
“I knew the defense wasn’t expecting the play we were running and I just found the hole and ran it in,” Simons said.
LaBianca was named a man of the match, controlling the field from his forward position.
“It feels good to be able to contribute in a big win like this,” LaBianca said. “I didn’t expect to be in this position at the beginning of the season but we have what it takes to win it all.”
The Shoremen also got a solid game from Konner Riggs, who was named their other man of the game for his numerous big hits and the way he seemed to be a part of every big defensive play.
Luke Fedders also scored a try on a nifty breakaway run midway through the second half.
“We have great depth and that has been very important for us this year,” Maynard said. “I look forward to keeping it going next week in Columbus.”