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Burrell rugby team expects physical match

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Matt Hess, Burrell rugby
Top high school sports
By D.j. Vasil
Friday, May 17, 2013, 1:06 a.m.

Burrell had one goal heading into this rugby season — win the state championship. It's a standard the program sets every year.

Standing in the Buckheads way this season is the Unionville Rugby Club.

Undefeated Burrell (8-0) will square off against Unionville (11-2) at noon Saturday at Cumberland County Park in the Rugby Pennsylvania state semifinals.

Both teams expect a physical match, which would be nothing new for Burrell.

The Buckheads combine hard running on offense with a physical, stifling defense to throttle their opponents.

That plan won't change Saturday.

“I told the kids if we play Buckhead rugby, we will win,” Burrell coach Ron Zanella Said. “This means if we play physical, fast and hard, we will win. We plan on wearing them down and stopping their number eight and 10.”

Unionville plays a similar style and has size to boot. Unionville comes into the match having outscored its opponents by a combined score of 581-155. Burrell, meanwhile, has outscored the opposition, 263-65.

Burrell defeated LaSalle, 13-12, to advance to the semifinals, and Unionville narrowly defeated Cumberland County, 37-32. The winner of the match will take on the winner of St. Joseph Prep and Exter for the state title Sunday.

There are several keys to Burrell slowing down the Unionville attack. The first, being able to stop Unionville's number eight, which translates to attacking on defense.

The second is letting their big boys — seniors Matt Hess, Corey Klems, Nick Nitowski, and junior Mitch Pollino — pound away on the opposing defense. The last is to set the tone. Zanella leaves that job up to sophomore Al Beattie.

The plan is simple. If there is a penalty run, and Unionville decides to run at Burrell, Beattie is in charge of stopping the charge.

It's just the opposite if Burrell is on the penalty run: Beattie runs right at the other team.

Burrell could just be hitting its stride after missing a number of players in the beginning of the year due to wrestling and basketball. Hess and Klems are among them.

“We did a complete 180,” Zanella said. “We added eight new players since basketball and wrestling ended. That's half your starting lineup. Getting Hess and Klems back on the field makes a difference because of their leadership.”

Zanella expects his team's solid consistency to flow into Saturday.

“My expectations are to win the whole thing,” Zanella said. “They can do it. If they play like they did last week against LaSalle, we can win the whole thing.”

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