Going from a player for to the coach of the Newton Rugby club team, Lucas Clayton has confidence in the 2019 Cardinals. Clayton, a 2018 Newton High graduate, has the rugby team at 2-2 after two weeks of play.
Rugby is another non-traditional spring sports offered for Iowa high school athletes. There are leagues for boys and for girls. It is a club sport. It is not a sanctioned varsity sport by the Iowa High School Athletic Association or the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.
Newton’s boys team is in its ninth season in Iowa Youth Rugby Association’s high school Boys Contact League. It is a Rugby Sevens League.
That means each team had seven players on the field and a game is divided into two seven-minute halves. A try — which is a score — counts 5 points then a team has to kick for the two extra points. All about 7s.
“I was talked into playing rugby by a friend. I played two years and fell in love with the sport,” Clayton said. “We found out our coach was not coming back after last season. It was a joke at practice that I’d coach the team.”
Then Clayton made a decision, asked several players who would be returning for the 2019 season and began working toward becoming the Newton Rugby team’s coach. He works for the Newton school district as an educational associate.
“Although the rugby team is not affiliated with Newton High School, the school officials have been great in supporting the team and making sure I have everything I need to be able to coach,” Clayton said.
Newton Rugby won the 2013 IAYRA Class 1A state championship. It was a 1A semifinalist in 2012 and 2014.
The past few years Newton has been in the Class 2A competition. It is back in Class 1A for 2019, playing in the 1A West Division and sitting tied for third.
On Monday, the Cardinals defeated Van Meter, the 2018 Class 1A runner-up, 26-15. That win got Clayton and his team excited.
“We have fun roster. The win over Van Meter gave our guys a lot of confidence. They are realizing we have a legit shot at success and the state title if we take this serious and continue to work,” Clayton said.
There’s 13 on the team — most from Newton but it has two from other communities. One is senior Damir Gumerov, who goes to Colfax-Mingo but has played on the team four years.
Newton senior Ethan Brady is another four-year player and senior Joe Ross is a three-year player. Senior Jacob Warren has two years of action now and junior Destin Schroder is a three-year player.
“Rugby is a team sport much like football, but the really cool thing is everybody gets an opportunity to possess the ball, make scoring plays,” Clayton said. “We have size and speed on our team. The lineman-size guys can score the ball. It’s just a fun sport.”
In the past, Newton has always hosted a Friday night of rugby games. Unfortunately, in 2019 Newton will not play any home games.
On Friday is the third week of action for Newton which plays Norwalk and Madison County at Bondurant. The regular season goes through May 3 followed by the substate and state for Class 1A and Class 2A.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets