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05.26.2016 - ALEX GOFF
In just the team’s first year in existence, the Las Vegas Black Hawks won the Nevada state championship, defeating the Las Vegas Rugby Academy 40-5 in the final.
It was a somewhat astounding result given that almost the entire team is a bunch of rugby rookies, but Head Coach Leonard Nell said the final was the culmination of a long season learning how to play.
“They’ve grown so much in terms of their knowledge of the game,” said Nell. “They are fast on their feet, and they are starting to understand how the game flows and what the positions need to be doing - where players need to be.”
The Black Hawks were led by Mac Tebbs, a talented center who is looking at the University of Arizona, and the big, athletic Devin Short, who, at 6-2, 220 fits in nicely at No. 8 but can play center or wing, as well.
Omri Nell captained the team at flyhalf and directed play impressively. Fullback Zane Ogan, No. 8 Gabe Gonzalez, and center Gavin Higbee all made key contributions this season.
“We’ve had so many players step up this year,” said Nell the elder. “And we’re getting a lot of interest from kids who want to come out next year.”
Several wrestling and football coaches have attended Black Hawks practices or games to see what the fuss is all about, and the reaction has been positive, especially as football teams are looking for additional ways to teach tackling in an effective, and safe, way.
“We need to build on this,” said Nell. “We need to look to play more teams outside our region and see where we stand as a program.”
Of course, for now, they can simply savor a state championships season that Nell summed up in three words: “It was magic.”