ALFRED NY –
The Alfred University Rugby Club capped its 54th consecutive season of play with a sensational victory over rival Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Alfred, on Jericho Hill, Hot Dog Day, Saturday, April 21, 2012.
Coming into the game, the showdown had been brewing since late last October when the two teams met in Rochester for a New York Rugby Conference (NYRC) cross-division Division III quarter-final match. On that day, Alfred came into the game as the 4th seed in the NYRC West division and RIT came in as the # 1 seed in the NYRC East division. In an unforgiving, cold, driving rain, Alfred surprised RIT and the NYRC rugby nation by beating RIT 28-14.
On this past Saturday the 21st, the scene was set for the rematch between the two clubs. The weather on this Hot Dog Day for the 2d consecutive year, as everyone will remember, was poor. The temperature on top of Jericho Hill was in the mid-40’s, with a continuous rain, a downpour at times. Nevertheless, both squads were on the field early to get it on with Round 2 of their 2011-2012 division rivalry.
On its own turf, in the club’s last game of the season, and in the last career game for 11 of its members, Alfred gave a sensational performance in front of a cheering hometown crowd and again beat the visitors 12-7.
In a clean, hard fought match, Alfred’s superior size once again was the difference. As was the case last fall, Alfred’s “scrum-forwards” (the 8 guys up front) dominated the ball-in-play. Regardless of who controlled the “put-in” to start play after an infraction or out-of-bounds, Alfred time and time again controlled the ball, obtained possession and took it to RIT.
Alfred’s Kevin Wright scored in the 1st half of the game on an exciting made-for-TV breakaway run followed with points after by Alfred’s newest kicking phenom, an ex-soccer player and national caliber soccer goal-kicking champ Dawson Peckham. Wright ran it down, Peckham put it through the uprights and Alfred was on its way.
Early in the 2d half, RIT was pushing for points down near the Alfred scoring zone. In a brutal series of exchanges, Alfred was penalized for over-aggressive play and RIT was awarded a “penalty-try” along with an enhanced point after placement; a first seen by Coach Bill Pulos in his 16 season Alfred coaching career.
Alfred came right back with its own brand of punishing rugby, pushing the ball down toward the RIT goal line. With the minutes in the game dwindling away, Alfred’s Mike Robillard took the ball and with a phenomenal blast of power and strength, crashed RIT’s goal line for the go-ahead and eventual winning score.
This game concluded a shortened season for Alfred, one in which it met teams from St. John Fisher College, the University of Rochester, SUNY-Brockport, RIT and Buffalo State College. In all of those contests, the ruggers from Alfred went up against clubs from universities and colleges that were better funded with more resources, much better playing fields, well-established sports programs (some with physical education majors) and school populations from which to recruit, some that exceed Alfred’s by several multiples. To illustrate, RIT’s student population is 18,000 and RIT does not have a football team.
This spring Alfred took on the Buffalo State rugby club on their artificial turf. The Buffalo State rugby club played Division I level rugby in the NYRC in 2010. Alfred plays Division III. Buffalo State is the largest comprehensive college in the SUNY system, designated a Carnegie Master’s L institution, with a student population of 12,000 and a rugby club budget of $ 19,000.00 annually.
On a cold day in Buffalo on March 31st, with 4 of its front-line starters unable to play, a courageous and prideful Alfred club battled Buff State to a 21-19 loss. Such is the type of almost insurmountable challenge the Alfred rugby club faced weekly.
In the end, Alfred once again proved that when the whistle blows to start the rugby game, its opponent better be ready because the collective heart, spirit, enthusiasm and competitive play of the Alfred Rugby club is formidable. They bring it.
Following a extremely hard-fought game at home the previous week against SUNY-Brockport on April 14th and another enthusiastic public service Village clean-up effort the following day in the pouring rain, Alfred came into the RIT game with several members nursing the strains and sprains resulting from a season’s worth of playing. 2 of its front-line members were unable to play due to injury. Half of the team played their last game of rugby in Alfred.
After Saturday’s win against RIT, Coach Pulos said: “I’m extremely proud of the guys on this club. They play with unparalleled strength, pride, attitude, nerve and courage. No matter what conditions and no matter the odds, these guys show up and compete. But more than that, these guys will take the lessons they’ve learned into the real world; of overcoming hardship, facing down insurmountable odds, competing against larger, better organized competitors, standing up for themselves and their teammates in hostile environments against bigger numbers, with superior results. They’ve done great, they’ve proven it can be done the right way and they’ve beaten the odds these last 6 semesters. They are a credit to their families and a credit to both institutions here in Alfred. There were many that said it couldn’t be done. I can’t give the players enough accolades.”
*With that background, Coach Pulos has announced that he will be departing his Alfred Rugby club coaching post May 1st, 2012, after a 16 season career spanning 2 sessions over 27 years.
Pulos’s Alfred Rugby coaching career is summarized as follows:
16 seasons, 100 wins, 1000 memories
In making his announcement, Pulos said: “I’m grateful for the opportunity to coach this club all these seasons in my hometown of Alfred, New York. I’ve had the support of so many people over the years to help bring the world’s second most popular sport of rugby here to Alfred for the enjoyment of so many. It would be difficult to list them all, but I thank them now, particularly the Student Affairs department of Alfred University.
After 6 semesters, I’ve accomplished what I was brought in to do: obtain objectively measured, positive results over time with good, clean, traditional Alfred power ball on the field. Over the years, rugby really has been a varsity sport in club clothing. Now it is time for a new coaching staff to pick up the rugby ball and carry the program forward. With new sports administration at both institutions, it’s possible the club might gain the essential support it deserves for medical and training facilities to help protect the athletes, which in turn would benefit the entire community. In today’s economy, college club sports are a bargain for both schools’ bottom line, there’s little reason not to promote them.”
When asked how he’d like to be remembered, Pulos said: “In the end, I’d like to be remembered as having done my best; as an innovator, decent coach and good mentor to hundreds of graduated players and as having enabled hundreds more that I didn’t coach, all of whom succeeded on the field and are now succeeding in life.
Most importantly, I hope both of my parents would be proud of the way I’ve honored the Alfred University lineage and heritage that I share with my brother Robert. I dedicate my 4000 hours of donated time with Alfred University Rugby since 1985 to the memory of our parents and their time spent teaching at AU; our dad, Dr. William L. Pulos (1949-1985) and our mom Juanita Whitaker Pulos (1966-1986).”