Northern California team Dixon defeated Xavier 20-12 in the semifinals of the National High School invitational (single school) Friday in South Jordan, Utah in an exciting, back-and-forth game.
Xavier looked to have scored in the opening minutes, with speedy wing Charles Guiraud outstripped the defense to run in from long range. But the attentive touch judge saw Guiraud step on the touchline, and the try was called back.
Having dodged a bullet, Dixon came back with a vengeance. Their HS All American Anthony Salaber capped off a nice team try. Guiraud replied to make it 5-5 and then Salaber added a penalty to make it 8-5 at halftime.
The second half was a thriller as the teams played back and forth. Xavier came close to scoring on several occasions, but some excellent tackling from Dixon kept their line clear.
With the ball, Dixon, despite looking a little small, were slipper. Center Chris Rico was enormously difficult to bring down. But for both teams, that final pass to the open man didn't come until the 36th minute.
After a long period of pressure Dixon ran the ball through the backs and out to Salaber, who did well to curl around under the posts and then hit the conversion. That made it 15-5, Dixon would score one more time, and while Xavier touched down at the end of the game, Dixon won 20-12.
"They just needed to play harder," said Dixon coach Rob Salaber. "One of things about this team is we don't coach winning or losing, we coach character. These guys have a lot of character and they showed it."
The key play was Salaber the younger's second-half try.
"There are a few basics you have to take care of to win a high school rugby game, and one of them is commit the man and pass, and they did that today," said Salaber.
"It's just a whole team effort, the forwards smashing it in, and then the backs getting it out," said Anthony Salaber. "Xavier is a good team, but I was also pleased with our defense, which has been weak sometimes. We believe we playing in the top league in the nation, but there are very good teams."
"It's great, we just have guys who can break tackles, and get through even if they're smaller," added flanker Nick Bonovich. "We didn't really say anything to each other at halftime or anything. We just knew what we needed to do."
Tries: Salaber, Garlick
Convs: Salaber 2
Pens: Salaber 2
Snow Canyon 10
Tries: Monson, Kavea
Tries: Salaber 2, Garlick
Tries: Guiraud, Cochrane