By David Fong
Six years ago, the Miami County Bombers rugby club team went winless in its inaugural season.
Since then, however, the program has grown every year — both in numbers and ability — taking steps forward with each season.
If they can take one more step forward, the club team — which is comprised of high school players from Shelby, Miami and surrounding counties — will end the season as state champions.
This year, the Bombers made it all the way to the Division 2 state championship game at Obetz Athletic Field near Columbus, dropping a 29-26 to Highland, a team from the Medina area, at the beginning of June. It was the Bombers first loss of the season, as they had gone undefeated through the regular season and into the tournament.
To get to the state title match, the Bombers defeated the Columbus Crusaders 34-5 in the state semifinals.
Trailing late, Miami County came back to tie the game. With 16 minutes left in the contest, Sidney’s Kyler Pleasant kicked a conversion to give the Bombers a 26-24 lead. Highland came back to take the lead with less than 2 minutes to play.
Still, though, the Bombers refused to give in and drove to within 10 meters of a score that would win the game, but time ran out before the Bombers could convert.
“According to Ohio Rugby President our match with the Highland Buzzards was the best match ever played,” said Bombers coach Dale Kellis, who has been with the program since its inception.
Kellis said Sidney’s Pleasant was one of the key players on this year’s team.
At least two players who recently graduated high school will be looking to continue their rugby careers next year. Kameron Block a Troy High School graduate, will be playing at Thomas More College in Kentucky. Stephen Dunham, of St. Paris, will be leaving to play in New Zealand in February. Kellis said Dunham had received a number of looks from colleges.
Kellis said reaching the state championship game gave a number of his players college exposure and he expects to keep hearing from colleges regarding his players.
Local players for the Bombers include: freshman Carter Andrews (Troy High School), senior Kameron Block (Troy High School), senior Joel Blount (Troy High School), sophomore Nathaniel Cospey (Piqua High School), junior Brandon Cox (Piqua High School), senior Luke Earhart (Lehman High School), junior Aidan Hicks (Troy Christian High School), sophomore Evan Hicks (Piqua High School), freshman Noah Leach (Troy High School), junior Arturo Mendoza (Piqua High School), sophomore Trevor Nicholas (Piqua High School), senior James Partin (Troy High School), freshman Michael Pfefferle (Troy Christian High School), junior Kyler Pleasant (Upper Valley Career Center), sophomore Carlos Quintero (Troy High School), freshman Ramon Quintero (Troy High School), sophomore Elijah Reynolds (Troy High School), sophomore Jacob Schneider (Piqua High School), freshman Logan Wilson (Troy High School) and sophomore Caleb Hundley (Troy Christian High School).
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong