Ponderosa grads Keenan Mayfield and Steven Brown fly to Pittsburgh, Pa., Thursday for Saturday’s collegiate Division II Final Four rugby match against top-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The pair play for the Sierra College Men’s Rugby Club, currently ranked fourth in the nation, and have hopes of reaching Sunday’s title game which coincidently is Brown’s 20th birthday.
The Wolverines, a relatively new club in its second year of competition, has come a long way in just a short time. Sierra dominated its conference this year, won the Pacific Division Championship several weeks ago in Orem, Utah, and at last week’s Sweet 16 in San Diego, defeated Cal State Long Beach and Pepperdine University to earn the right to face Wisconsin-Whitwater.
The Rocklin side was the only junior college team to make the 32-team postseason field and the first-ever junior college to reach the final four. Many of its victims were long-standing, legitimate D-I programs.
“It’s been a great season and going to the final four is a dream. We had a lot of players come out, good summer practices and it’s been a collaborative effort,” Mayfield said. “Ever since Utah we’ve been the underdog, but in three weeks we’ve come from 14th ranked to fourth.This might sound funny but I feel like we’re the (2010) Giants — a group of misfits who are call flying high right now, riding the wave to see how far it’ll take us.
“I think we have the weapons to get the job done but we’ll have to be perfect and not make any mistakes.”
Both Mayfield and Brown played football at Ponderosa and during high school played rugby for the Motherlode Rugby Club, a team made up of Bruins and Oak Ridge players.
Mayfield is Sierra’s leading scorer with 164 points to date after scoring 17 against Pepperdine. Brown plays the flanker position but was just moved to the 8-man spot because of an injury. Brown’s season started late due to the football season at Sierra.
“I think I’m done with football — it got political and really wasn’t fun anymore. Rugby is more of a player’s game, which I like,” Brown said. “We’ve always been the smallest team playing bigger and bulkier guys but we’re faster and more fit and run by them in the last 10 minutes while they’re worn out.
“The Wisconsin game is the big game for us. At this point I don’t know what to think because I’m still in shock we made it this far. None of us are nervous or intimidated. We’ll go out and play our game and if we lose we lose. At least we made it that far.”
Saturday’s Sierra-Wisconsin match will be broadcast live on usarugby.org.