Michael 'Chicken' Dabulas of Westfield and Khalil Burns of Linden led 25 Union County teammates to the Rugby National Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina on May14 - May 16.
The first game on Thursday, 5/13 was against a tough North Bay team from California. Kevin Trotter broke 6 tackles on a 60 yard run to start the Mudturtles on their way. Mike Hogan, Jatece Wright (2 tries) and Jonadony Brevette also all scored in the 34-27 victory. Union was ahead 34-10 with 12 minutes left, but North Bay was able to cut lead to 7. Trotter made a magnificent open space potential game tying tackle at the 5 meter line to seal the win. Zach Koch, Nick Ballas, Tom Morley and Greg Blaine all had outstanding defensive games for the Mudturtles.
On Friday, the opponent was Fishers from Indianapolis. Wright, Daniel Johnson, Dabulas, Burns and Nick Costa all scored tries in the 29-10 victory. Dabulas' kicking game and Costa’s punishing defense dominated play. Brendan Collum, Fred Gladis, and pound for pound toughest player at the tournament, Ben Kelly all had outstanding games. Gladis and Collum controlled the line-outs all game. Nick Costa blasted his way through the entire Fisher squad to set up the Daniel score. Dabulas was the smartest player on the pitch from beginning to end, Wright was the fastest and Kelly's scrum management helped win the day. Kelly's blocked kick late was a game sealer for the Union side.
The Championship game on Saturday pitted the Mudturtles against home town and well supported Charlotte Catholic. The Charlotte Catholic team had scored a total of 135 points in the 2 games leading up the championship game. The Union squad held them to only one late try in the hard fought 17-5 victory. Wright started scoring for Union with a 60 yard run off a beautiful Dabulas pass. The Mudturtles had a 10 minute goal line stand towards the end of first half led by Collum, Burns, Costa, Gladis, Brendan Cunningham, Ballas, Hogan and others that seemed to take the air out of the Charlotte team and their fans. Wright scored again to start 2nd half. Brendan Cunningham had a nifty long run to set up that score. Matt Zimmerman was all over the field for Union in 2nd half making tackles. Mike "Road Rage" Hogan finished the scoring for Union to seal the Championship.
The venue in Charlotte was great with 24 teams from all over the country participating in the tournament. Head Coach Joe “Straw” Dabulas gave all of the coaching credit to assistant coaches Bill McLaney, Jack Zimmerman and Ivano Mirandi. Grace Dabulas, younger sister of players Chicken and Jack, gets credit for most enthusiastic and loudest fan. General Manager and overall team Mom Diane Dabulas gets credit for being most nervous fan.
The State Championships are next on the target for the Mudturtles! For more information about the Union County Mudturtles Rugby Club, current schedules and to register for the summer flag rugby program, please visit http://www.mudturtlerfc.com.