For the second consecutive year, the Snow Canyon Warriors (3A) took on the Herriman Mustangs (5A) for the state championship and looked to win the program’s fourth rugby title in the last six years.
But Saturday’s match at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City didn’t live up to the hype as two of the top teams in the nation went to battle.
After falling in heartbreaking fashion last year against Snow Canyon, the Mustangs left no doubt who the best team was in a 74-12 blowout victory. The championship ended a three-year drought for Herriman, which took state in 2012 and 2013. The Mustangs ended the season with a perfect record.
“This win is pretty special no doubt about it,” Herriman head coach Derek Smith said of his team’s statement win. “Last year’s loss was tough on the players and they came back hungrier than ever and it showed.”
After beating East to advance to the title game, Herriman awaited the winner of Snow Canyon and Highland.
“We didn’t care a whole lot about who we would play,” Smith added. “But the players were excited when they found out we would be playing Snow Canyon.”
After 10 minutes of scoreless action, Herriman’s Brig Rush opened the game with a try — one of many on the day for the left winger. Rush then added another try just seven minutes later as the Mustangs quickly built a 17-0 lead.
But Snow Canyon answered with two tries to cut the deficit to 22-12.
Kody Jacobsen put the Warriors on the board in the 20th minute as the senior took a pass and sprinted 30 yards and in for a score. Jacobsen used a nifty stiff arm to break free from the last defender before diving in for the try.
A couple of minutes later Britton Webster added another try for Snow Canyon as he muscled his way for the second and only try of the day for the Warriors.
From that point on it was all Herriman after that as the Mustangs finished the game on a 52-0 run for the blowout victory.
“It’s disappointing for sure, but we still had a really great season,” Snow Canyon co-head coach Jay Day said. “This game certainly doesn’t define our season. We were fortunate to play in several national tournaments earlier in the year which we did really well in and were able to host teams from as far away as Hawaii in our yearly tournament. We played hard and competed in the first half and then Herriman ran away with it. But all the credit goes to them, but they really are a talented team.”
The Warriors weren’t at full strength with several players not able to play due to injuries and concussions. Jacobsen was taken out at halftime after coaches noticed he had concussion-like symptoms.
“As much as we love rugby, nothing is more important to us than the safety of our players,” Day said. “It was tough for them not to be out there, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game.”
Despite the lopsided loss, Snow Canyon should still be a force next year as the “JV team” — which consists of 9th and 10th graders – went home as state champions earlier that day as the Warriors outlasted East for a 31-19 victory. Snow Canyon whipped Herriman 51-14 in the semifinals in order to reach the title game.