2016 Southern California Champions (#7 in the Nation)
2016 Southern California 7s Champions
2015 Southern California Semi-finalist
2014 Southern California Champions
Summer 7’s Roster: Drew Brumley, Jarem Cortez, John Darcy, Slade Gordon, Christian Hunter, Noah Im, Aidan Martinez, Luke Mohr, Giuseppe Meola, Jeremy Smith, Austin Tiradeau, Brandon Tiradeau, Tomy Undurraga, Reed Vabrey, Luke Weaver
The 2016-2017 season was full of high hopes. While the Mustangs lost Captain Justin Johnson and backs Brandon Espeso and Malakai Elep the boys from Costa were loaded with talent. Harrison Dulgarian returned as Scrum-half for the 4th year in a row, Callum Lapper at Hooker, Alec Oshita one of the most dynamic Locks to play at Costa, Outside Center Justin Goring who’s speed and agility were a huge weapon, Gunnar Kissman who could track a kickoff like no other, Jonah Tavai as Number 8 one of the most physically imposing ruggers in the country and all held together by new Fly-half David Arredondo. Unfortunately for Mira Costa the season took an ugly turn prior to even getting started. Both Arredondo and Goring went down with severe knee injuries from football games just a few weeks prior to the rugby season. Inside Center Jordan Fischer also sustained a football knee injury as well. Unfortunately, the Mustangs never really recovered from their losses to football injuries. The Mustangs had to scramble to plug the holes and plug them quick.
The season opened up with 3 scrimmages. The first scrimmage was against San Fernando. The Mustangs were a bit rusty but played well. The following week Costa traveled to San Diego to scrimmage against Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon. Both are solid teams with well run programs. Both have a number of rugby only athletes and it showed that they had been practicing for some time. Both schools handled the Mustang attack with little effort. However, it would not be the last time the Mustangs saw the boys from Torrey Pines.
The season opened up with Servite High School from Anaheim. The regional athletic power was no match for the boys from Costa as they rolled 64-5. Next was St. Anthony from Long Beach. The Saints experience was no different from the Servite Friars as they too got whacked, 75-7. Going 2-0 in non-league gave the Mustangs some confidence going into league. Their first match came against a new but very familiar foe…Redondo Union High School. The previous year Mira Costa reached out to Redondo to start up a rugby program. The two schools worked together and established the Seahawks Rugby Program. The Mustangs even paid for Redondo’s entry fee into the league as a sign of good will. Despite the score it was a typical Redondo/Costa match up. Very physical and very intense as the crosstown rivals battled throughout. However, despite the physicality of the Seahawks the experienced Costa team came away with a 28-0 win. Following the win the boys from Costa took to the road to battle a very fast side from View Park. Both sides were able to exploit each other’s defense however the Mustangs decided to play enough defense to come away with an entertaining 46-20 win. Senior Night saw a very physical side from Citrus Valley HS. Physicality is good but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t catch your opposition…Costa 64-0. It was back on the road out to Eastvale to take on the Eleanor Roosevelt Mustangs. No doubt the “Mustangs” were going to win and it was Costa in another run away 52-nil. Despite the two very lopsided victories the Mustangs were still beat up from the two very physical teams they had just blown out. Up next was rival St. John Bosco HS for the Los Angeles Division Championship. Winner got a home game in the semi-finals of the playoffs. Despite an only 3 year history the two schools have developed a true rugby rivalry. The two schools are by far the powers of high school rugby in Los Angeles County. Each side taking turns claiming the championship. Even better, a good portion of each team play club rugby together for the Los Angeles Rugby Club under the Head U-18 Coach Duke Dulgarian. Despite the rivalry both sides genuinely love and respect each other. Every match is a dog fight and this was as well except on the scoreboard. Costa exploded on the Braves as they scored early and often. The Mustangs 39-10 victory gave them the 2017 Los Angeles Championship and a home game against a very good side from Torrey Pines (San Diego).
The Falcons were a very well coached team and they took advantage of 3 early (questionable) Costa penalties, all in the Costa zone and before the seats were warm the Mustangs found themselves down by nine points. The Mustangs finally were able to get on the board before half on a Jonah Tavai Try. The score sparked the Mustangs as they came out of the halftime determined to protect their 3 year home winning streak. They quickly scored to go ahead for the first time of the match. The Falcons responded to regain the lead. After trading possessions the Costa boys exploited a gap and found pay dirt to go ahead again. Torrey Pines pressed the attack as time now became a factor. Costa managed to turn the ball over deep in Mustang territory however the Falcons managed to block a clearing kick as the ball fell into the Try Zone where a Falcon grounded the ball to tie the game at 19. The tie forced the first overtime in Mira Costa history. The two sides played some stellar defense for a good portion of the overtime period when a Falcon managed to find a gap and scored ending the Mustangs season at 7 and 1.
Final Record: 7-1
The 2015/16 year found the Mira Costa Rugby program firmly on their feet and about to take a big step onto the national scene. The Mustangs were coming off a Southern California Championship in 2014 and a final four appearance in 2015. 2016 would prove to be a very special year for Mira Costa Rugby. The Mustangs returned some key players, many of which went on to play at the college and national level. They also added some dynamic athletes to their side.
The season opened up against a very physical team from Granite Hills HS (Apple Valley). The boys from Costa may have dominated the score for a 27-7 victory but it was nevertheless a highly contested match. Up next was Dana Hills in a revenge match. The previous year Dana Hills handed Mira Costa the first loss of their short but successful history. The Costa boys were more than ready as they dominated most of the evening coming away with a 46-19 victory. The following week they took on a struggling side from Palos Verdes HS. Despite doing everything possible to keep the score down the Mustangs hammered the Sea Kings 82-12. Next up for Costa was Servite. The match was close in the first 10 minutes but then the much more skilled Mustangs took control of the match by crushing the athletic powerhouse 77-8. Costa opened up league play by taking on a very fast and athletic side from View Park Prep and coming away with a 55-22 victory that saw a lot of open style play that both sides are accustomed to do. Next up for Costa was a very physical Wilson High School from Long Beach. The Wilson boys are known for their ability to ruck and ruck they did. The Bruins managed to keep the match close at first but this edition of the Costa Rugby program was very special and they came away with a 38-3 victory to run their record to 6-0 heading into their Senior Night vs. their rivals from St. John Bosco (4-0).
St. John Bosco has become one of the most dominant football programs in the nation, often being named National Champs or at least placing in the top 5 in the country on an almost annual basis. The vast majority of their Ruggers come from the football program and as a result the Braves are a very big, physical and athletic rugby side. On average the Costa boys are about 30-50 pounds lighter per student than Bosco. Nevertheless, the Mustang style of play and their ability to play the game completely nullified the physical differences in this battle for first place in the Los Angeles Division. The Boys from Costa played fast and completely blitzed the Braves as the Mustangs hammered them with a 45-24 victory. The final match of the season was a 28-0 shutout of St. Monica HS. The victory propelled the Mustangs into the playoffs once again.
The Semi-final match found Mira Costa hosting Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego). The Mustangs wasted little time in dispatching the Broncos by a score of 47-7. The victory set up a re-match of the previous year’s semi-final match as once again the Braves of St. John Bosco took on Mira Costa for the Championship. The match was held at UCLA as a curtain raiser before the UCLA – Cal match. However, this was no contest. The Mustangs played near flawless rugby as they exploded for a 28-5 halftime lead. It was a complete team effort as Hooker Callum Lapper, Lock Alec Ohsita, Number 8 Jonah Tavai, Outside Center Justin Goring all found pay dirt for Costa. The Braves were on their heels for about 60 minutes of the 70 minute match. The icing on the cake came as the Mustangs offense was stalling from just outside the Bosco 22 when Scrum Half Harrison Dulgarian made a perfect box kick that fell into the Try Zone as Dulgarian out raced the Bosco Fullback grounding the ball for the Try, completely killing any momentum the Braves may have had. The victory gave Mira Costa their second championship in three years and an invitation to the National Tournament in North Carolina. However, before their trip to Charlotte, NC the Mustangs travelled to Las Vegas for the annual Las Vegas International 7s. Playing in the tournament for the first time for Costa the Mustangs hammered teams from Canada, Tennessee, Alaska, Idaho and their lone loss was a 7 point loss to a side from New Zealand giving the Mustangs a the Bowl Championship.
One month later Mira Costa played host to Rangitoto College (Auckland, New Zealand). The Kiwis were on the final leg of their tour of the United States and this was their final match. In their previous matches they hammered their American opponents. However, they found a team that was playing their best rugby of the year in Mira Costa. The boys from Costa fell behind early but then fought back to go ahead. Meanwhile the Kiwis became more frustrated as the match went on becoming from “chippy” to the point that the Rangitoto Captain was assessed a Yellow Card on behalf of his team for poor sportsmanship. Unfortunately, the Mustangs made two critical mistakes late in the second half which gave the Kiwis a 33-22 win over a very well drilled, skilled and physical Mira Costa Rugby team.
The hard fought match with the New Zealand boys was great preparation for the National Championship tournament. The Costa boys were well prepared. They were physically fit and playing extremely fast and athletic rugby. They would need the speed as they took on the defending National Champions, Gonzaga of Washington, DC. The Eagles had been playing rugby for over 50 years and have 280 boys in there program. Costa on the other hand were playing in their 3rd year and had 42 in the program. Nevertheless, this was a special Mustang team and the boys were confident that they could use their athleticism to their advantage. However, mother nature had other plans for Costa as for virtually the entire tournament it poured rain. So much rain that the grounds could not handle the volume of water and the three matches prior tore up what was once a beautiful rugby pitch. The Mustangs were able to play a tight first half but it soon became clear that the boys were playing on (virtually) ice as they could not find any purchase in the slop. In fact, it was the first time all year that Costa played on natural turf. The conditions completely negated the Mustangs speed. The Eagles spent the entire second half keeping the ball within their massive forward pack. There was little the Mustangs could do as the much smaller Mustangs could not find any traction to stall the constant forward drives. Final, Costa 10-Gonzaga (eventual champions) 37. The following day Costa took on St. Edward (Cleveland, OH). The St. Edward Eagles have been playing rugby for over 40 years and they have about 180 in their program. The Mustangs altered their game and the Eagles found themselves in a dog fight. The final score was Costa 14-St. Edward 22. The day after the rain stopped but by then any speck of green on the pitch was most likely from a leaf that might have blown on to the pitch. Nevertheless, the boys from Costa took to the pitch to take on La Salette High School (Georgetown, Illinois). The Lions have a long history of solid rugby and they showed it against the Mustangs as they got up early. However, the boys from Costa were determined to leave the tournament with a victory. The two sides traded scores in what was a thrilling match. However, with time running down the Mustangs scored a Try to put the match on ice for a 29-21 Costa Victory and a #7 Ranking in the nation.
Despite the end of the official season the Mustangs had one last match to play, a “friendly” vs. Ysgol Bro Gwuan from Wales, Great Britain. Unfortunately for the Welsh they took on a very seasoned team from Mira Costa as the Mustangs hammered the Welsh 26-0. Despite the lopsided score both sides had a great time playing each other. In fact, after the match the two sides put together two mixed teams and played some more rugby giving them an opportunity to play with each other as well. Post-match the two teams had dinner together, exchanged presents and contact information and took pictures as well.
However, this 2016 was still not done as they literally ran over all the competition in the 7s season winning the Southern California High School Rugby 7s Championship. It was a truly magically season for the Mustang Rugby Program. The Team Captain, Justin Johnson was an amazing leader. Justin took his game to an extremely high level earning himself a Rugby scholarship to Life University as well as a spot on the USA National U21 team. Without Justin this team would most likely not have achieved the success that they did but even though Johnson proved to be a great player as well as a great leader, this was a complete team effort nonetheless.
Roster: David Arredondo, Greg Boras, Blake Curtin, Liam DiGregorio, Harrison Dulgarian, Makai Elep, Brandon Espeso, Robert Fiene, Jordan Fischer, Justin Goring, Prentiss Hoy, Justin Johnson, Jake Kirst, Gunnar Kissman, Callum Lapper, Kaden Loversky, Alec Oshita, Kevin Russell, Cole Sprouse, Luke Sussman, Jonah Tavai, Justus Tavai, Ryan Toomey, Sean Walker
Final Record: 12-2
After coming off an unbelievable and undefeated Championship inaugural season the Costa Ruggers found themselves with a graduation depleted squad and a big target on their backs. Hooker, Juwann Johnson (Oregon State) took the lead of the squad as the 2nd Team Captain. The new edition of Mustangs were not as physically imposing but they were a very athletic side and with a year of experience under their belts. Juwann was a physically dominating runner for the Mustangs but unfortunately he entered the season recovering from a football injury. The first game of the year was against an overmatched side from Stern M.A.S.S. The Costa Ruggers hammered their opposition 55-0. The following week the Mustangs traveled to Dana Hills in a rematch of the 2014 Championship Game. This time, without the Costa team captain saw the Mustang drop their first match ending their 12 game win streak. Costa rebounded nicely on the road in sub-freezing weather in Apple Valley and a 3 hour bus ride as they defeated a very big and physical Granite Hills team 33-3. That was followed by a victory over View Park which set up a showdown with soon to be rival, the St. John Bosco Braves. The Braves began playing rugby one year prior to Mira Costa and had developed an excellent program which was made up almost completely by their powerful football program. Costa fell behind early but by halftime the Mustangs had taken the lead. The second half saw the Braves come back and the match became extremely heated. However, at the final whistle the two sides were tied 26 all. Costa came back from the tie to crush a very weak Palos Verdes HS side 55-0 and then followed that with a 19-13 physically fought win over Wilson HS. That put the Mustangs in the Quarter-Finals where they dismantled Point Loma HS (San Diego). The victory set up a rematch with St. John Bosco HS in the Semi-Final round. The match was held at UCLA as a “curtain raiser” for the UCLA – California match. Costa was overmatched. The Braves used their size and physicality to beat the Mustangs handily 17-44 ending the Costa season giving the Mustangs a 6-2-1 record.
However, there was one more match to be played. New Plymouth High School, from New Plymouth, New Zealand visited Mira Costa for the Mustangs first ever International Test Match. The Mustangs opened up the match playing some strong rugby and actually Freshman Number 8, Jonah Tavai managed to drive the ball to the 2 meter line however the Kiwis’ defense held and that would be it for Costa as the final score was 0-94 marking the worst loss in Costa Rugby history. However, despite the beating it was a great experience for the Mustangs as they got to see how proper Rugby is played. Of course, the post-match party (a rugby tradition) proved to be great fun as the two sides exchanged gifts, stories and made lifetime friends.
The 2014/15 team produced some solid ruggers that went on to play on the collegiate level. Juwann Johnson, Oregon State; Ethan Alverson, University of Colorado; Matt Large, San Jose State; and Lincoln Personius, Grand Canyon University.
Roster: Ethan Alverson, Greg Boras, Nick Coons, Blake Curtin, Harrison Dulgarian, Brandon Espeso, Justin Goring, Cameron Harger, Cole Hunter, Justin Johnson, Juwan Johnson, Jake Kirst, Gunnar Kissman, Andy Large, Matt Large, Isaiah Leilua, Jeremiah Leilua, Joshua Madden, Diego Marcucci, Lincoln Personius, Kevin Russell, Tre Searcy, Shawn Stachowiak, Jonah Tavai, Justus Tavai, Ryan Toomey
Final Record: 6-2-1
The Mira Costa Rugby Program exploded upon the scene in 2013. The first team in Mira Costa Rugby history was most likely the most physically imposing side that may ever don the Green and Gold. The Pioneers (as they like to call themselves) were an athletic bunch that were big, strong and fast. Despite being a new sport to Mira Costa and the greater Manhattan Beach area, the Pioneers did have a handful of student-athletes that did have some club rugby experience. The team was led by Jahlani Tavai (University of Hawaii football / USA U19 rugby) who although never played organized rugby, Jahlani was well versed in the game. “Big” Joe Anderson (University of Ohio football) stepped in at Prop as a physical force being 6’ 4” and 300+ pounds. At 6’ 9” Greg Briskin ruled the lineouts from his Lock position. Brandon Mills (University of Pennsylvania) will most likely go down in history as the most physical Flanker to wear the green and gold.
It bit of trivia as the Mustang’s first ever home match was actually played at Alondra Park in Lawndale as rain had closed the Costa pitch. Another bit of trivia…the first ever Costa Try was disallowed as Brandon Espeso (who obviously was not coached properly) found a gap and ran into the Try Zone only to gently on the ground rather than actually grounding the ball as per the Laws of Rugby. Costa eventually went on to defeat Dana Hills 22-14. The Mustangs soon found themselves winning games and most by large margins. The boys from Costa won 6 games in a row which earned them a playoff bid. Rancho Bernardo HS drew the unfortunate lot of having to travel to Manhattan Beach to face the Mustangs. Led by Fly-half and Backs Captain Harrison Morrow (UC Davis rugby/captain) by a score of 63-14. In the semi-finals Costa took on a very well coached side from Stern M.A.S.S HS and advanced to the Championship match by a score of 26-0.
The win set up a rematch with Dana Hills. The match was held in north San Diego County and a political demonstration basically shutdown the 5 Freeway. The traffic jam caused the Mustangs to show up literally at kickoff time. With no warmup the Dolphins took advantage as they were up 5-14 and with time running out in the first half they were on the 3 meter line looking to push the lead to double digits. However, just before punching the ball in Dana Hills made a penalty. Captain Jahlani Tavai alertly took the ball off the tap, broke two tackles and while racing down field he found speedster Outside Center Sebastian Franck-Love for a thrilling Try. The score right before the half woke up the Mustangs as they completely dominated the second half easily winning the Southern California Rugby Championship 41-14. The Pioneers finished the inaugural season with an 11-0 record and the Southern California Championship.
Roster: Joe Alexander, Greg Briskin, Kevin Brothers, Trent Delk, Harrison Dulgarian, Brandon Espeso, Sebastian Franck-Love, Jordan Fischer, Mark Herrera, Justin Johnson, Juwan Johnson, Gunner Kissman, Henry Kobel, Isaiah Leilua, Jeremiah Leilua, Andy Large, Matt Large, Dane Largent, Brandon Mills, Harrison Morrow, Lincoln Personius, Khalil Sonko, Jahlani Tavai, Justus Tavai, Brogan Tyrer
Final Record: 11-0