Article by Goff Rugby Report contributor Robert Bortins, photos by Heide Newby.
The North Carolina Junior Varsity finished the South Regional All Star Tournament 4-0 in the JV bracket, beating Georgia to finish a North Carolina sweep in the boys divisions in Marietta, Ga.
The team was led by Reid Brandt (Charlotte Catholic) and coached by Justin Goonan, and had to battle through some close games to get to the final.
They started out with an impressive 22-5 victory over South Carolina behind two tries from Brandt. A rain delay slowed things down on Saturday and then made the field muddy for the rest of the day. That was against Georgia, where NC took a 7-0 lead on a long run from Brandt. That was all the scoring they could muster, however. Georgia scored with nine minutes to go, but couldn't convert. With the score 7-5, Georgia got a penalty about 35 meters out and at a tough angle; the attempt at goal sailed wide.
That put North Carolina at 2-0 and on Sunday morning they took on the Tri Stars from Tennessee. North Carolina played without flyhalf Christian Newby (Triad Bulldogs), who had suffered a concussion. Tennessee took a 6-0 lead into halftime thanks to two penalty kicks. But it was Brandt again with the scoring touch. His try, and then tries from Jehari Whitfield (Southern Pines) and Gabe Patton, with a conversion from Ben Kiernan, won it 17-6.
The Championship match was a rematch from Saturday’s mud bowl with Georgia. Georgia had a distinct size advantage and both fronted up well at the breakdown. Georgia put in a try with five minutes remaining in the far corner to take a 5-0 halftime lead. Brandt tied it up with a long run, and it seemed North Carolina finished the stronger as their offense started to pick up momentum. George Sharpe (Raleigh Rattlesnakes) took a quick tap from the Georgia 15 meter line and swung it out wide to Gus Williams (Southern Pines) who ran past two defenders for the try and the 10-5 lead. Georgia did not give up and methodically drove the ball to the North Carolina 5-meter line. North Carolina was called for not rolling away, and Georgia looked to tie up the game with a penalty play, but Williams made a key tackle at the goalie to preserve the victory.
Reid Brandt, who scored five of his team's 11 tries, was named JV bracket MVP.