Herriman High rugby among nation’s best
The Herriman High rugby team has been making a name for itself on the national stage since the program started just last year. This season, the Mustangs finished second to Jesuit Sacramento, a team with seven national titles to its credit.
“What our boys have done on a national level is simply unheard of for a second-year team,” head coach Jeff Wilson said. “No team has ever competed in nationals, nor finished as high as we have in the national rankings, this early in their program’s history.”
Herriman successfully defended its state title May 11 at the University of Utah with a 3-0 victory over United, the number-one-ranked club team in the country in the semifinals. A 41-19 win over Snow Canyon, which is ranked fifth in the country as a single-school team, in the championship game gave the Mustangs their second state title.
Last year as the underdogs, Wilson said it was incredible to win the title. This season, his squad felt the pressure all year in being expected to repeat.
“Sometimes doing what you are supposed to do can be tougher than doing what no one expects you to do,” he said.
Herriman was led by three All-Americans – Francis Bernard, who will be touring Argentina with the All-American team this summer, and Thad Hay and Gabe Ruflin, who are also being considered for that tour – along with fellow captain Moliki Mulitalo and player representatives AJ White and Vili Bloomfield.
Wilson pointed to a mid-season game against United as a “turning point” for his team, following the program’s first-ever loss. Against United, Herriman was down at halftime and regrouped to outscore its opponent 20-0 in the second half to win 41-28.
“We just rolled from that point on, not really getting challenged in the state tournament and getting some momentum into nationals,” Wilson said.
During the national tournament, the Mustangs faced powerhouse Jesuit, which is a fully-funded school varsity sport, while employing a coaching staff of nearly 20.
“On paper, we should not have been able to compete with them,” Wilson said. “Our boys gave them everything that they could handle and outplayed them in a lot of ways.”
An 18-17 loss to Jesuit, followed by a 42-14 victory over Dixon, the defending national champion, turned a lot of heads at the national level and earned Herriman respect, according to Wilson.
Also on the championship team were Beau Bequette, Sione Bloomfield, Vuni Bloomfield, Tyler Chapman, Donnor Dickerson, Josh Dixon, Jordan Drage, Canyon Hansen, Brady Heninger, Jeremy Hinton, Connof Hoff, Zach Hogan, Brandon Jensen, Jordan Marrott, Mitchell Martinez, Ka’Ohu Maumau, Irvin Medina-Garcia, Sialao Mobley, Kalisi Moli, Devin Rasmussen, Semisi Tonga, Kaelon Tryon and Bill Ward.
Wilson was assisted by Damon Baker, Cliff Chase, Don Fountaine, Nate Hardman, Derek Smith, Mike Smith, Semisi Tonga and Larry Wilson.
“We had a fantastic season,” Wilson said. “I think what made it special is that even though we had a lot of players coming back from the previous year, it was not easy. We had to fight through some adversity early on, and I think that it made our success when it came time for state and nationals all that much more gratifying because of the effort that it took to get on top and stay on top.”