The program has reached the highest of heights and stayed there.
The Royal Irish Rugby Society has been so good for so long, in fact, that the slightest disappointment can stand out – and Scott Peterson said that was the case for the Royal Irish late in the 2018 season.
After playing in typically dominant fashion much of the season, the Royal Irish finished fourth in the Super Bracket of the 2018 Midwest Tournament in Elkhart, Ind., on the weekend of May 6-7.
It was the first time since 2011 the program didn’t win the Midwest tournament.
“I would say we’re not where we want to be,” Peterson, the Royal Irish’s longtime coach, said between the midwest and national championships in May. “That was a little disappointing, but we had a pretty good season save that weekend.”
The losses in the Midwest tournament did not end the program’s season. The Royal Irish on May 19 narrowly missed winning the Boys High School Rugby National Championships in Kansas City, Mo., losing the national-title game to Danville Oaks of California, 27-15, in overtime. The Royal Irish won the national title four of the previous six years.
The Indiana State tournament – the program’s final event of the season – was scheduled to be held on Memorial Day weekend.
“I think we have a good enough team to make some noise,” Peterson said as the season-ending tournaments approached.
The Royal Irish, after winning their early-season games in impressive fashion, sustained two losses to Indiana schools at the Midwest Boys Championship — 20-19 to runner-up Fishers in the semifinal, then 17-12 to Penn in the third-place game. The Royal Irish, who finished fourth at the tournament, had beaten both Penn and Fishers earlier in the season.
The Royal Irish Rugby Society – a team made up of students from Cathedral, Chatard and other area schools – in 2017 had swept the national, Midwest and state championships. The team also won the national titles in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and has won 12 Indiana state titles.
Peterson said both 2018 Midwest losses were reflective of the overall improvement of rugby in the state of Indiana.
“Penn’s always been good and Fishers has gotten really good in the last few years,” Peterson said. “This was the first time we had lost to them [Fishers], but they’ve played us close for a couple of years. We beat them both in the two weeks leading to Midwest. They just kind of got us that weekend.
“Teams are getting better. I don’t know that it’s us getting any worse, but we get every team’s best shot every week. We know that, especially Fishers. That’s kind of part of it.”
Cathedral senior Andy Guhl, a member of the rugby, football and wrestling teams, was named the Cathedral 2017-2018 Athlete of the Year. Guhl was a captain on the Royal Irish in 2018.
“He’s a heck of a rugby player,” Peterson said. “He’s been a really good player for us. He’s our captain this year and he’s rated the No. 2-rated player at his position in the country. That’s phenomenal, and Andy has done really well for us.”
Cathedral senior Jack Kafka also was a strong player for the program, with Cathedral senior Stewart Earnhart, Cathedral senior Angelo DeLuca, Cathedral senior Josh Plunkitt and Cathedral junior Kiernan McCormick and Cathedral senior Nick Frederick also starting for the program. Cathedral senior Elijah Bittingerr and Cathedral Johnny Leffel also started for the program.
“When we play well, we’re very good defensively,” Peterson said. “We’ve got the ability to be a very good defensive team, but when we’re clicking offensively we can run the ball and pass the ball and make all the plays we need to offensively as well as anybody in the country. When we’re moving the ball and being active and athletic, that’s when we’re at our best.
“Our play on the field has been good this year, and our club is strong. I still think we can beat anybody in the country.”
Editor’s note: Because of printer deadlines, all postseason results of the Royal Irish Rugby Society were unavailable at press time. For information on the Royal Irish Rugby Society results for 2018, please visit gocathedral.com.