For the fourth straight year, the Saratoga Mustangs, a rugby team comprised of high school-age youth from Saratoga County, will be traveling to the New York State High School Rugby Championships on May 31st-June 1st in Utica, following a convincing 30-5 victory over Capital-North Regional rival Saranac Lake on Saturday. Led by Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Junior, Brian Dahlin, the Mustangs out-muscled a much larger Saranac team.

"We knew that they had us beat with size, but were confident that our conditioning and ball skills would eventually wear down a larger team” said first year head coach Aaron Noble. “What really surprised us was the ability of our forwards to dominate the pace of the game and to really set the tone.”

The Mustangs were able to capitalize early in the match on quick plays up the middle leading to an opening score by BHBL Junior Austin Manhey to take a 5-0 lead. A second try on the outside gave Saratoga a 10-0 lead before Saranac countered with a break down the sideline to make the score 10-5. Saratoga’s defense, however, was able to tighten down as the offense scored four more tries. Mustangs Assistant Coach Vern Peek credited the strong forward play early on with opening up the game for his back line as the day wore on. “Our pack players really forced the [Saranac] defense to close up the middle, which allowed our backs to get out and run wide on them.” The Saratoga back line was led all day by the team’s lone senior, Antonio Rodriguez, whose bruising runs opened up holes for his teammates.

Saratoga will finish the regular season this week at Albany before turning their sights to the State Tournament. The Mustangs, a community-based club team that practices only twice each week, will face teams from the Western and Metro regions, many of which enjoy varsity status and have access to practice facilities five days each week. “It’s a challenge to get our players up to that level with such limited practice time, but the boys have put in a lot of hard work and are extremely dedicated to improving in their own time as well. We are confident that we can match up well against whichever team we face,” says Coach Noble.

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