Finding a niche

Grand Gents rugby club growing in popularity

Grand Gents’ Casey Moreland looks to pass the ball to teammate Alejandro Arndt during the Gents’ 32-0 loss to Cory Schott and the Littleton Eagles at Dixon Field.

Weion Pretorius, right, of the Grand Gents carries the ball while dodging a tackle attempt by Josh Bohney of the Littleton Eagles during the first half of Saturday’s game at Dixon Field.

In only its third season, the Grand Gents rugby club team needed to start a fundraiser and sell something in order to thrive.

But scented candles?

“Just because we’re rugby players,” said Grand Gents hook Jonny Sanchez of Palisade High, “doesn’t mean we don’t like to smell fresh.”

On Thursday, Sanchez alone raised $232 by selling candles.

But on Saturday afternoon at Dixon Field, the Gents lost 32-0 to the Littleton Eagles.

It was the first loss for the Gents (2-1), who have defeated Chaparral, 43-5, and Legend Ponderosa, 43-5.

“This one was a tough one for us,” Gents coach Doug Evans said.

The Gents began by combining players from Grand Junction and the Aspen Junior Gents.

Last season, the Gents placed third in the Rugby Colorado high school league.

“It kind of shocked the heck out of everybody,” Evans said. “Some of the better players we have all work on farms and ranches so they go out there and give it their all and aren’t afraid of anything.”

And it seems they’ve fallen in love with rugby.

“It’s the best sport; it’s addictive,” said Ethan Adams, a lock from Palisade High playing his first season of rugby.

“It’s like soccer where you run and run and run combined with football, but you don’t get hit as hard and you don’t have to stop and anyone can have the ball.”

It’s almost like the old Pringles potato chip slogan.

“Once you get started,” Adams said, “you can’t stop.”

Track players might agree.

Littleton Eagles coach Charlie Riley said when the Eagles began two season ago, his opening roster sheet had three players — two of the players’ numbers were disconnected, and the third decided not to play.

“I thought it was going to be my son and six of his friends,” Riley said.

Then the first practice came.

“It turned out there were 60 people at practice,” Riley said.

Riley said during that first practice, Heritage boys track coach Kevin Young showed up to the field.

“He said, ‘I figured out where half of my track team is,’ ” Riley said. “Then he stomped off.”

Evans expects rugby, an infant on the Western Slope, to grow in a similar fashion to lacrosse.

“It’s new on this side of the mountain,” Evans said.


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