It wasn’t a sport they grew up playing, but the seniors who were honored Friday at Nunley Stadium still love rugby as if they were born to play the game.
Both Warren County High School rugby teams played their final home games Friday, with the Lady Pioneers falling to visiting Spring Hill 25-10 before the Pioneers crushed Lebanon 41-5.
“These seniors are just super good kids,” said girls rugby coach George Smartt. “Four of the girls were on our state championship team three years ago. They’re all tough, hardworking and are the best kids you can find.”
The Lady Pioneers honored seniors India Fann, Molly Hale, Bec Loftis, Lila Loftis, Kennedy Goforth and Kathryn Stiles. Kyra Garrison, who was unable to attend Friday, was honored before a home match last week.
Goforth and Lila Loftis got a special memory on their senior nights. Both scored on their home turf, with Loftis powering in before halftime and Goforth crossing the line in the second half.
Fann, who joined the team for her senior year, fell in the love with the game almost instantly.
“It’s such a fun sport to play. The best part about it is the aggressiveness,” said Fann, who battled injuries in her first three years before getting to play this season.
Coach Johnathan Smith, in his second year with the Pioneers, got to send off eight seniors with a big win. It seemedall but assured from the first whistle.
Warren County dominated from the outset, with a long run by Justin Bennett highlighting a 29-0 first half. The Pioneers slowed in the second half, but still added two scores and a two-point kick.
Seniors Jason McNatt, Adam Brown, Cesar Lopez, Jordan Hammond, Ethan Valdivia, Kaleb Smith, Marco Valdez and Kevin Fernandez all played big roles in the blowout. Luke Nafrada was unable to participate due to injury, but he joined his fellow seniors on the night of honor.
Still in its infancy – rugby launched as a club at WCHS in 2015 – coach Smith has seen the sport really take hold in Warren County.
“It gives everybody a chance to do it all on the field,” said Smith. “Everybody has a chance to get the ball in their hands and they get to flip on the other side and play physical.
“It’s a versatile game. You can play small and quick or you can ground and pound. There’s something for every athlete.”
Smith believes his senior class has made a big influence on the sport, with their example setting up the program for long-term success.
“These guys are leaders on and off the field. They make the difficult plays and have worked really hard to get better,” said Smith.
The rugby teams will take part in the Middle Tennessee Rugby Club state championships Saturday, May 5.