LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Dr. Gregg Jones has been at the helm of the Kutzown Rugby program for thirty years. One would think after three decades as the head coach of the Golden Bears that Dr. Jones would have seen it all, but that’s not the case.
The Kutztown attack was in full swing during the Golden Bears 62-19 win over Delaware. The offensive output was impressive, but even more amazing is that each of the 62 points were scored by freshmen – something that Coach Jones has never witness during his time leading Kutztown.
Five first-year players combined for ten tries against the Blue Hens, and freshman fly half Jackson Clark connected on six of the conversions for 12 points of his own. Of the seven freshmen who started against Delaware, none had a bigger impact than D1A Rugby Player of the Week Joseph Thatcher.
Last year’s Rugby East-winning team was senior-laden. Several influential Golden Bears graduated this past spring, including All-Americans Alex Faison-Donahoe, Jordan Ghyzel and Wesley Hartmann. The minor exodus has allowed for immediate playing time for the seven freshman starters, but also spots for two sophomores in the first XV, as well.
Playing in his first game at eight man after beginning the season as the team’s blindside flanker, Thatcher scored a hat trick in the first half – each score coming off runs of at least 20 yards – before adding a fourth try early in the second half. The Charleston, SC-native’s production was remarkable, but it wasn’t exactly what caught his coach’s attention.
“His biggest contribution to the side, besides the points, was his ability to become a motivational rallying point to an accomplished forward pack,” Jones said. “His teammates rallied around his demonstration of determination and power running.”
Although Thatcher is just a freshman, it’s not shocking teammates would follow the young loose forward given his toughness and commitment to the program. Already playing with a nagging shoulder injury, Thatcher managed to have his front teeth knocked-in two weeks ago in a gruesome seen that would have left many players on the sideline for several weeks.
“At Wheeling Jesuit he left the game with his four front teeth pushed backwards and almost parallel to the roof of his mouth,” recounted Jones. “Yet, he went to the hospital after the game and the doctor in the emergency ward pulled his teeth straight, and we put Joe back on the bus. On Monday he went to the dentist, lost one of the teeth, had a special mouth guard made and played on Saturday against St. Bonaventure.”
Not to be outdone, fellow freshman Callum Bartlett, Jake Estes and Aaron Gray each scored a try of their own, while another first-year player, Brendan Boon, bagged himself a hat trick.
The Golden Bears are still in the hunt for a second consecutive Rugby East title but must get past seventh-ranked Army Saturday, Oct. 29. If Thatcher and Kutztown can get a win in West Point, they’ll set up what could be a Conference Championship deciding fixture Saturday, Nov. 5 at home against No. 4 Penn State.