The Clayton Heights senior boys rugby team are provincial champs.
The team capped off a dream return to rugby this year by capturing a AA Tier II gold medal June 4 at the high school championships in Abbotsford.
Bruce Dayton, manager of the rugby program at Clayton Heights Secondary, said it was a tough battle for provincial bragging rights.
“(It) proved to be an incredible fight for gold,” he said.
He added both Williams Lake and Coquitlam’s Robert Bateman played very well in the provincial tourney and proved to be formidable opponents. He said every team in the competition was there to win and it made for very tough matches all around.
“The Clayton Heights team was no different and had their concerns when noting the high skill level of their opponents,” Dayton said. “They fell back on the one team weapon they believed to have guided them through all their successes for the season, their close bond and friendships they built together as a team.”
He said head coach Kleo Schmidt and assistant coaches Vlada Shevchenko and Riley McMaster instilled the importance of teamwork and comradery in the kids from day one and it helped them when they needed it most, in the challenging provincial tournament games.
“As a team, they united and pushed to a win for gold,” Dayton said.
He said when he saw the kids and coaches walk off the pitch, they were silent with smiles and a fantastic contentment.
“As a guy watching from the sidelines, I can only hope that one day in these young people’s futures, they will be driving to their careers or sitting with family and they have a fleeting memory, ‘Man, what a wicked Grade 12 year!’”
The high school boys and girls rugby provincial championships were held at Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park June 1 - 4. The tournament, the biggest high school championships in Canada, hosted both seven- and fifteen-aside formats.
“The event was probably the most professional and well-organized event I have ever been to in all my years in the school system and coaching in outside sports.”
Dayton said the refereeing was top notch and he heard no on-field complaints from any opposition. He also said the massive BBQ left a lasting impression on the kids.
“Our Grade 12 players, and our Italian exchange student players, will leave behind a great team, but they’ll carry with them the memories that come from a long season well spent with good buddies,” Dayton noted. “The (Grade) 10s and 11s will continue on the legacy while mentoring the 8s and 9s.”
The win capped off some big successes this year as Clayton Heights recently won the South Fraser Regional rugby championship, which gave them favourable seeding for provincials, and they also won the Rodeo Bowl, a cross-town rivalry game with Lord Tweedsmuir.
Their success has sparked excitement at Clayton Heights, all the more incredible as the school only restarted their rugby program this year after it had been cancelled due to a lack of available coaches for a number of years.
“We have not had rugby at Clayton Heights Secondary for many years since some of our long-time teachers and coaches retired,” Dayton told the Cloverdale Reporter earlier this year. “Teachers Dave Pue, Kim Eagle, and Colin Campbell historically ran the program, but since they retired there has not been an opportunity to play.”
Dayton said Clayton Heights surprised multiple teams in their restart year.