COLUMBUS — Three Medina County teams entered the RugbyOhio state finals at Fortress Obetz. Three left as champions.
Brunswick and Highland’s boys captured the Division IAA and II titles, while Medina’s girls completed its season with the D-II crown.
The Blue Devils picked up their second straight banner with a hard-fought 5-0 win over Walnut Hills, while the Buzzards survived a second-half scare to beat Miami County 29-26.
The undefeated Bees wasted little time against Amherst and cruised 62-14, snapping a two-game, title-match losing skid.
Here’s a breakdown of each final:
Boys Division IAA: Brunswick 5, Walnut Hills 0
One word described the Blue Devils: relentless. Brunswick (5-4) put constant pressure on the Eageles, making a single try from Kyle Schneider hold up.
If Walnut Hills wanted to move the ball up the middle, the Blue Devils were there. If the Eagles wanted to use their lineout and maul, John Justice and Rob Woznicki countered.
“We looked at the game as a fight, not a game,” said first-year coach Kevin Perciak, who was on the staff last season when Brunswick claimed the title. “Don’t stop tackling and rucking as hard as possible until the opponent not only loses, but quit.”
Aaron Tofil and Dan Tofil were dominant, picking up key tackles and taking the Eagles’ forwards out of the match. Josh Kruszynski played one of the biggest roles defensively, stopping a handful of potential scores with his tacking and ability to swipe the ball.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Aaron Tofil said. “They have a large pack and quick backs, so we knew we had to go in ready to play great defense.
“We just had to find a way to get points on the board and, once we did that, we just had to stop them. I’ve never seen a team that enjoys hitting the other team more than this year’s group.”
That toughness was shown by Alex Duncan, who made plays with a bruised rib cage.
“We lost our first few matches, and people started to say we were in a rebuilding year,” Aaron Tofil said. “As a team we knew what we could do. Once we blended everything together, everything came together perfectly.”
Boys Division II: Highland 29, Miami County 26
After losing a player to injury in the first half and having two others sent to the sidelines after halftime, things didn’t look good for the Buzzards.
They made it work.
Highland (11-1) led by 12 in the opening half but was without top outside threat Brandon Yu because of a head injury that required 17 stitches. A pair of players were penalized for high tackles minutes into the second, allowing Miami to go on a 14-5 run to take a 26-24 lead.
With 10 minutes left, however, the Buzzards went back to full strength and on the attack. Following a Miami kick from deep in its own territory, Frankie Zamlen drew a defender and dished to Jake Sir Louis, who beat a pair of defenders before finding the end zone.
Miami made a last charge and reached the 22-meter line before Highland picked up a loose ball in a ruck and Jackson Carriero booted it away to end the match.
“We had some issues playing down two guys, but we had practiced how to deal with that exact situation,” junior Jake Kubicki said. “I’m happy to say our team handled it relatively well.”
Kubicki finished with a pair of conversion kicks in the first half, as tries from Yu, Brandon DePerro and Juliano Chesnick helped the Buzzards lead 19-7. Ben Bullock had the other second-half score.
For DePerro and Bullock scored their first tries of the season.
“It means a lot,” Kubicki said of the win. “We were able to grow into a group of athletes capable of more than just a D-II state championship.”
Girls Division II: Medina 62, Amherst 14
It was only fitting the Bees had a chance to enjoy every second of their third straight trip to the state final.
Medina wasted little time, building a 26-point halftime lead to cap an undefeated season and erase the disappointment of two straight title-match losses.
“Working these past three years has been worth the wait, for sure,” senior Aeryal Sherepita said. “I believe all of us seniors knew something had to change. When we finally had another chance to play in the championship game, we were hungry.”
Medina dominated both sides of the ball. Freshman inside center Haylee Roach scored four times, while Sherepita and Taylor Washburn each added a pair of tries.
Combine them with Kennedy Miller’s six conversions and insurance scores from Cassidy Edwards and Paige Burneson and it was quite a day for the Bees.
“These girls handled the barrage of physical play by Amherst in the first 10 minutes,” said coach Stephen Miller, whose team finished 9-0-1. “We knew once we hit the 23-25 minute mark, our conditioning and wide style of play would wear on their bigger back line.”
Roach had a lot to do with that success, finding gaps in the defense to setting up a balanced attack that had Amherst guessing.
After two years of heartache with losses to Walnut Hills, which moved up a division this season, the Bees wanted to take advantage of every moment on the big stage.
“The girls played loose and had fun,” Stephen Miller said. “They did not let off the gas and embraced the stage they were on.
“They earned this moment, some three years in the making. This feeling, it’s special. It’s really special”