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From The Morning Call --
April 21, 2005
Allentown Blues rugby team on a roll
Of The Morning Call
Stop by Alton Park on Allentown's south side any spring weekend and you'll recognize certain sounds like the ping of an aluminum bat hitting a softball, the thud of a strong forehand on the tennis courts or the rattle of a rim during a basketball game.
And if you're lucky, you'll hear bagpipes blaring an old Irish ditty at a rugby match.
That was the case Sunday when the pipes added an international flavor to the Allentown Area High School Rugby Blues' win over St. Gregory's Academy of Moscow, Pa.
The Blues consist of Lehigh Valley high school athletes. The team won the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union title last year and is 5-0 in 2005.
The Blues have eight Central Catholic students on their roster, a legacy that traces back to the late Tom Hafner, a former CCHS coach and athletic director.
''Allentown Central kids have participated for decades, going back to when the Allentown Rugby Football Club was founded in 1966,'' said Bob Gotthardt, a Blues assistant coach and one of the club's founders. ''Tom played from 1969 until 1975 before later coaching the East Stroudsburg University team. He always supported the game and today our team has several noted Vikings athletes. He'd be delighted to see that.''
''All of my friends from high school would talk about it, rant and rave and get everybody psyched up about it,'' said Mark Bus, one of the CCHS kids. ''I love it. It's a game that is going to get big. It may get as big as football. It has a lot of intensity, but all of the players get along with each other. A lot of football players want to do this in the offseason because it helps them with their hitting.''
Ryan Bucari, a fullback on the CCHS football team, said he was looking for someone to hit after the season. That's why he became a Blue.
''I just like to hit and have fun,'' he said. ''You fly around and compete. There are no pads, just mouthpieces. You'd think you'd get hurt more, but you never do. It's not that bad.''
Bucari, who will play rugby at Drexel University, said the joy of rugby is the action.
''You're always in the middle of it, doing something,'' Bucari said. ''It's an alternative to other sports. It just caught people's interest at Central. It was something new. Word got around and then the fun of the game kept bringing 'em back.''
Parkland High student Josh Keys, who will continue his rugby career at Kutztown, is a captain and one of the squad's most polished veterans.
''It's a great game because it has all of the intensity of football without the pressure the high schools put on it,'' Keys said. ''It's more relaxed, more fun.
''You never stop running. You have to be very fit to play this. I played football before this sport, but parents were too involved and it got too political.''
Practices continue for the team on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Alton Park.
In March, the Blues traveled to Washington and played the Gonzaga Rugby Club tough before the nation's fourth-ranked team prevailed 8-5.
''That was a great experience for the kids,'' head coach Dan Benedict said.
The Blues hope to keep winning and eventually get to the national tournament in California. For more info, check out the team's Web site at http://www.gotthardt.net/blues .
Messiah sophomore Matt Gorkos (Saucon Valley) was recently named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association Academic All-America team. Competing at 141 pounds, Gorkos finished second in the MAC conference tourney. He had 30 wins this season, including 10 pins.
The former District 11 scholar athlete is on the Dean's List at Messiah and was named captain for the 2005-06 season. He is also a relief pitcher on the MAC-leading Messiah baseball team and is 2-0.
Freshman Amy Loughney (Central Catholic) had one of the top individual performances in Bucknell women's golf history when she carded a 76 last week to finish in a tie for fifth place at the PUPS Big South Championship at The Patriot at Grand Harbor. Bucknell also placed fifth as a team, its highest finish in three seasons as a conference member.
Loughney shot 77-76-76 for a 54-hole score of 229, the best in school history. She became the first Bison player to earn All-Big South honors.
Liberty High sophomore and District 11 3A singles champ Lindsay Gray won the Birchwood girls 16&under Sectional Ranking Tennis Championships.
Gray, seeded fifth, did not lose a set on her way to the final, including a decisive 6-3, 6-2 win over top-seeded Katie Moritz of York.
In the final, Gray met third-seeded Alex Sebia of Plains, Pa. and fought back for a 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 win.
Gray, who returned to Bethlehem last year after an extended stay in Florida, is ranked seventh among 16&under players in the middle states region.
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