It’s a three-peat for Fallbrook, which downed Kent 55-10 in the Girls High School National Invitational Tournament final. The Warriors scored 129 points over three games, and Kent’s two tries in the championship match were the only points surrendered.
Kent gave it everything they had and did well to challenge fullback Lilly Durbin with deep, long kicks into space. But the Washington side only enjoyed a couple of sustained offensive series in Fallbrook’s end – one ended in a dive-over try in the first half, the first points scored against Fallbrook all weekend. Outside center Asinate Serevi also picked off a pass for a long, stiff-arming run before offloading to flyhalf Cassidy Meyers for the try.
But Kent couldn’t spread the defense quick enough, and even if there was personnel to cover the dynamic Fallbrook line, which included forwards and backs alike, Fallbrook worked the space too fast and ferociously. Fifteen-year-old outside center Kayla Canett and sophomore flyhalf Richelle Stephens dotted down hat tricks, while No. 8 Alex Beckett and wing Katherine Wilches also added five-pointers.
Fallbrook needs to win a couple of more championship before the term “dynasty” can be applied, but right now, there’s no one that competes with the Southern California powerhouse. This third consecutive championship was important, however, as two of the seniors who played their last game with the Warriors today were on the ground during the club’s first season.
Flanker Megan Pinson and scrumhalf Irayda Macedo started with the U14s, and they’re hallmarks of the vast progress and continued success that Fallbrook has enjoyed over the years. It was a special motivation around which the team rallied, and they couldn’t have given a better ending to two of the team’s founding members.
“It’s definitely an end of an era for us,” Fallbrook coach Craig Pinnell said. “For those players, to be able to finish it off on a high, that means a lot to the team. That’s where the team’s focus was.”
Pinson and Macedo did more than just stick around for six years. They, along with standout seniors like Clarissa Perez and Wilches, have been instrumental in keeping the winning seasons alive.
“The main thing they’ve brought is team spirit, bringing in those younger players and showing them what it’s all about,” Pinnell said of the seniors. “The veterans have been mentoring the ones coming through, and it’s been very satisfying for them. They’ve prepared the younger ones for the positions they’re going to vacate, and now they can continue the legacy and keep us on the same smooth path we’ve got going.”
One standout who’s benefited greatly from her senior leadership is Canett. She had the best step of the final and looked at ease with ball in hand, weaving through defenders aplenty.
“She’s done more than I’ve ever seen her do before,” Pinnell said. “She’s a little jumpy jack-in-the-box; she was all over the place. She’s little and to just take to the pressure that the game started off with was awesome to see from a young player.”
Fallbrook has foregone true support from their high school, even though they do identify with the school, in order to accommodate the youth exploding through the ranks. Since they field a couple of middle-schoolers, Fallbrook High School doesn’t recognize the team as a school sport. But that’s not to say the Warriors are anonymous on school grounds.
“We did get texts and e-mails from our principal saying good luck,” Pinnell said. “But the sport is huge at school. We played a game against [Canada high school champion] Carson Graham, and we had 4-500 spectators to support. All of the students know who the rugby players are, even if they’re not wearing their jerseys before game day. From a coaching point of view, Marin [Pinnell] works there. The teachers and athletic department have huge respect for the program, even though we’re not officially on board. It’s really taken off and everyone know what rugby is.”
And rugby knows Fallbrook, the three-time girls high school champion.