Tigers pull past Highlands Ranch | SummitDaily.com

Tigers pull past Highlands Ranch

summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

It wasn’t exactly the game the Summit High rugby team had expected.

Matched up against a scrappy Highlands Ranch squad on a windy day at Mountain Vista High School Saturday, the Tigers started slowly, struggling to find their offensive flow due to penalties, miscues and some stellar defense from the opposition.

And once they did get it going, junior Haley Anderson – the team’s scrumhalf and a member of the U.S. National Team program – went down with a concussion, eventually being carted off the field by EMTs.

For a team that won 52-6, the Tigers faced about as much adversity Saturday in the semifinals of the Colorado state playoffs as they have all season.

“There was a little adversity out there, and not the kind you want with playing poorly and then an injury,” head coach Karl Barth said. “But they showed a lot of character in the way they overcame it all.”

In the end, the Tigers were fine and well on their way to state championship. And while Anderson will also be “fine,” Barth said, she’s certainly out of the title tilt next week against Douglas County.

Barth admitted his team may have been looking ahead a bit to the championship game, overlooking a team the Tigers had already beaten by 82 points in early October.

“Highlands Ranch is really scrappy,” Barth said. “They don’t have a high-powered offense or anything, but they do a good job of trying to take you out of your game. … It took us longer than usual to adjust.”

Summit led only 12-6 at halftime, but once the second half started, the Tiger offense blew the game wide open.

The Tigers scored a couple early tries to build the lead up, and once Anderson got hurt, senior captain Heidi Gruber pretty much took over the game, scoring three of Summit’s final four tries.

Meanwhile, junior Emmy Griffith anchored the team from her spot at fullback, creating three tries off passes and scoring one of her own.

Chloe Dudick, whom Barth said was “everywhere” during the game, also scored, as did Hannah Price, Tayla Reller and Meg Weldon.

“Once they got going, they built up their confidence again, and they really got going,” Barth said.

Griffith and Anderson both kicked three successful conversions. Anderson’s final conversion before getting hurt gave her 100 made kicks during her career, an astounding number considering she’s only been the team’s kicker for a little more than a season and a half.

Junior Emily Bilenduke played “really well” replacing Anderson at scrumhalf, Barth said, filling in at the spot many consider to be the quarterback of a rugby team.

Also filling a void with a number of girls out in the match was senior Ariel Johnson.

“She showed a lot of leadership,” Barth said. “She stepped up and helped lead the team.”

The Tigers now have a week to prepare for the title game, which will be a rematch of last season’s championship. Summit won last year’s game with Douglas County, and if it pulls off another win this year, it will be the team’s third straight state title – and third undefeated season in a row.

The game will be played Saturday at Infinity Park at Glendale in Denver. Kickoff is slated for 3:50 p.m.

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