Carmel High School rugby club claims state title in dramatic fashion


The Carmel High School rugby club’s approach to the season was single-minded.

“With the players and coaches, there was just one goal: Get the title,” CHS coach Leo Romero said. “We worked so much on how mentally prepared we should be, because there is a lot of pressure in a final.

The CHS rugby club won the Boys Rugby Division I Championship on May 31 by edging Pendleton Heights 24-23 in two OTs.

Carmel finished with a 6-2 record, with one of the previous losses to Pendleton.

With approximately 35 seconds left in the second overtime, Pendleton led by 23-17. Carmel’s Zach White scored a try, which is similar to a touchdown, in the middle of the posts to put the deficit to 23-22.

So, it came down to the conversion kick.

“Jean-Claude Roland, the rookie player, without knowing at that moment how much responsibility was laying on him, makes the kick through the posts and gives Carmel the victory,” Romero said. “I can’t describe how proud I am of this team. This is a game I will never forget.”

Jackson McCart was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Two first-year players, junior Ryan Strydesky and sophomore Jack Milligan, made big contributions.

“They were a big asset to the team,” Romero said. “They impressed me because they had no idea what rugby was and the entire season they stepped up.”

Carmel beat Louisville (Ky.) Crush in the first playoff game. Since Kentucky doesn’t have a state rugby tournament, Indiana invites Louisville to participate. Carmel defeated Avon 23-22 in the May 29 semifinals.

“That was a dramatic game. We won at the very end as well,” Romero said.

The title was Romero’s second in his six seasons as CHS also won in 2017.

Carmel’s roster featured 27 players, including 11 seniors.