The Bishop O'Dowd boys HS program made a bit of statement even in losing as they pushed Jesuit of Sacramento 24-14 in Northern California varsity single-school action Saturday.
O'Dowd held on in a tough, physical encounter but a try from No. 8 Kasey Reilly secured the game for Jesuit.
"Very committed," was Jesuit Head Coach John Shorey's description of Bishop O'Dowd. "They flooded the breakdown with large forwards which slowed the ball down and used a rush defense. We made adjustments at halftime to counter their aggressive game plan by attacking the middle channel."
Bishop O'Dowd is coached by former Eagle prop and Jesuit rugby alumnus Ray Lehner, and he was happy to put a scare in how old team.
"They are the gold standard of high school rugby programs," Lehner said of Jesuit. "We knew we would have to play out of our skins to be competitive. Jesuit is clinical and they just do not make mistakes."
The game itself was very physical, said Lehner.
"No team was backing down. Wlthough we defended for most of the game, my boys were absolute warriors, especially counter-rucking and in our scramble defense. In the end we leaked a couple of soft tries to them and that was the margin. You just cannot make unforced errors and give up easy points to good teams."
Jesuit led early 7-0 but two minutes later O'Dowd center Jesus Rios scored from a turnover. Wing Eric Hernandez hit the conversion to tie the game with only six minutes gone.
The next 15 minutes or so Jesuit spent camped in the O'Dowd 22, but could not punch it in. Eventually they got a penalty for hands in the ruck and the ensuing penalty kick put Jesuit up 10-7.
In the second half, Jesuit took a 17-7 lead with a try from an interception. O'Dowd replied with a nice try from center Isiah Johnson, converted by Hernandez, and the score stood at 17-14. Then, with 12 minutes to go Reilly picked from the base of the scrum to put the game away.
Reilly was excellent for Jesuit, as was fullback Devon Kelly.
Meanwhile O'Dowd was led by captains Corey Nuti (scrumhalf) and Titian Rovera (flanker), while football converts Johnson and prop Jonathan Rowland showed some good moments.
"I think this game was a good reminder that the opposing team does not matter, everyone will bring their best against us," said Shorey.
Next up for O'Dowd is Dixon, defending NIT champs, while Jesuit faces Christian Brothers.
"Our league is the toughest in the nation, no doubt about it," said Lehner.