In two of the most exciting weeks of competition in the 96 year history of the Williams Rugby Football Committee, the White Dawgs found themselves lifted to the pinnacle of rugby achievement, only to be sent down callously to the depths of despair. On October 16, in near perfect rugby weather, the giant fighting force of Johnson State came over the hills looking for Williams blood. What they found was a White Dawg A-side playing at the peak of its potential. Both pack and line proved equally unstoppable, holding the Johnson State Lumberjacks to zero points.
The Dawgs effectively chopped the Lumberjack offense down at the knees, and the ball basically remained in Johnson territory throughout the contest.The galloping giants of the WRFC line seemed able to score at will. Every liney got a piece of the action, even those who have traditionally been reluctant to score.
Junior John Crowley-Delman said after the game, “As the leading rusher in the history of my high school football team, I felt that my life had been filled with enough glory already. I made a conscious decision to let a few of those less blessed than myself run the ball into the try zone, like Chido (Alozie ’01) and (Paul) Bethe ’00. But last weekend I was like, I’m sick of trying not to score, it’s harder than running the stupid ball in! So I got five for my team.”
The Williams pack, led by president and sub-captain, Joe Sensenbrenner ’00, rucked like uncaged animals. Their ability to retain possession for the faster and more athletic RFC backfield meant that Crowley-Delman, Bethe, Ian Lewis ’01, Forrest Wittenmeir ’02 and Alozie, could all combine for an unprecedented eleven tries.
Crowley-Delman tried to put that number in perspective, saying “It’s hard to understand what eleven tries means because each is only worth five points. People don’t get real jazzed about 55 points. I always tell them, ‘imagine that each is worth ten points,’ and then with that 110 figure out there people get a lot more excited.” Junior kicking sensation Ryan Kurlinski was equally unstoppable, putting through almost too many penalty kicks to count. At games end, the WRFC was standing high atop a 83-0 win.
When the Killer-B’s took the field they were still without a win. However, inspired play by Nicholas Brandt ’02 and Matt Lipinski ’02 brought the B’s their first victory. Asked about how it felt to bring home the proverbial bacon, Jeff Macey ’00 said, “I was getting really sick of losing. I’ve always played my hardest, and I’m happy that everyone else turned it around so we could win finally.”
Fresh off their trouncing of the Lumberjacks, the A-Dawgs felt confident, but not cocky, about their test versus Middlebury on October 23. In the coldest, muddiest, game that anyone can remember, that confidence would be shut down. Middlebury was the only other undefeated team in the league, so whoever won the game would get a spot in the conference championship and all the notoriety that accompanies such a feat. Both teams came out with fire in their bellies, ready for the single most important thing they would ever be asked to participate in. Williams struck first, with Kurlinski finding the area in between the posts that you need to kick it through for the penalty kick to count to put Williams up 3-0.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Bethe found space and pounded the ball in for Williams’ only try of the game to make the score 10-0 Williams. Said Kurlinski, “I thought we had it won at that point. I was hoping maybe we could just call the game. I was getting so dirty.”
“Not so fast!” said the Middlebury A-side, as it put through a penalty kick. Within minutes of the kick, their hooker drove in a try to tie the game at ten a piece. The injured Williams hooker, Ben McAnaney ’01, wearing a neck brace from a collapsed scrum in the second half, said, “I could’ve scored for our team, but I’m not allowed to play rugby anymore. Mom says.”
The game was still tied at the end of regulation play, so the White Dawgs entered the unexplored territory of overtime rugby. Middlebury scored in the waning seconds of the second ten minute overtime, known as double secret overtime and came out ahead, 17-10.
The B’s were eager to avenge the painful loss of their older mentors, and they did so in style. Brandt and Lipinski continued their scoring streaks against the Middlebury B-side.