Pygmies Win One of Three in High Desert Classic

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Tech men's rugby club fall record dropped to nine wins against four losses following a challenging October 24-25 weekend at the 44th annual High Desert Classic tournament in Albuquerque.

The Pygmies lost their first two matches Saturday before rebounding with a massive win in their final appearance. The Pygmies competed in the eight-team collegiate competition won by the Air Force Academy 24-10 over the University of New Mexico.


The Tech Rugby Club members following their 61-7 victory over New Mexico State University in the 44th annual High Desert Classic in Albuquerque. In front (from left) are John Mark Stiles, Miguel Lopez, Zach Rubin, coach Dave Wheelock and Anthony Bernal. In back are (from left) James Horne, Carl Peart, Tanner Graham, Nigel Ruckhaus, Fritz Hieb, Manny Hernandez, Stephen Albritton, Jake Natzic, Brian Arko, Isaac Juarez, Josh Hudgeons, Moises Veleta, Dr. Taylor Dotson and Isaac Encinias.



The challenge of filling the shoes of injured backline stalwarts Tanner Graham and Javier Koerdell translated into plenty of needed match experience for first-season backs Jake Natzic and James Horne. Their progress on the learning curve contributed in part to Tech's 61-7 demolition of the New Mexico State Chiles in the final match.

Already struggling for available players after two consecutive weekends of game in Flagstaff, Ariz., and the 49ers alumni match, the Pygmies were further challenged in a 9 a.m. matchup with Rio Grande Union rivals University of New Mexico when forwards talisman Blaine Trujillo was unable to play. The Lobos hardly needed their backs as the forwards ran roughshod over a disorganized unit that missed too many tackles in a 42-10 Pygmy loss.

Tech managed a first-half try when scrumhalf Isaac Juarez foot-tapped the ball from a penalty 15 meters from the line and fought his way through the heart of UNM's forwards. In the second half freshman wing Zach Rubin scored a beauty by outflanking the defense and sprinting 40 meters before resisting a sideline tackle to dive in for the score. Both touchdowns were scored in the corner of the try zone and neither was converted.

Tech regrouped somewhat in their second match against the B team from the Air Force Academy, whose first side has won six national championships in Division 1A since 1989. The Pygmies opened strongly with a straight-ahead attack by the forwards, surprising the Zoomies by steadily gaining ground through repeated rushes. But an untimely kick gave away ball possession and ultimately the first try to Air Force. After the conversion kick made it 7-0, Tech returned to its grinding game and brought the ball close to the Zoomie line for several minutes. This initiative also failed after a scrum was lost and Air Force got the ball to their elusive backs for a second try making the halftime score 14-0.

The second half was a gut check for a Tech team running short on players as the inevitable bumps and bruises played a part. Along the way the Pygmies showed more glimpses of an emerging forward-oriented game. Air Force scored two additional tries to claim a 28-0 victory but to their credit the Pygmies avoided a rout.

The Pygmies replenished their pride with a 61-7 shellacking of downstate rivals New Mexico State University in an early evening nightcap. By mutual agreement between the captains the match was played with rosters reduced from 15 to 12, closer to the magic number of 10 Tech has historically excelled at over the years.

John Mark Stiles started the scoring parade after just one minute after taking a pass from back line partner Brian Arko. Forward Nigel Ruckhaus kicked the two-point conversion for a 7-0 NMT lead. The speedy Stiles added two more long-range tallies before halftime, one after chasing down his own kick and the other from beyond the halfway line after taking an assist pass from first-year player Anthony Bernal. Ruckhaus hit one conversion and Arko added another to stretch Tech's lead to 21-0.

The Chiles recorded their seven points on a penalty try awarded late in the half.

Ruckhaus was rewarded for his storming play with a try scored after forward teammate Moises Veleta dislodged the ball in a heads-up tackle. The Pygmies led 28-7 at the halftime break following Ruckhaus's conversion kick.

The Chiles's spirits broke along with their defense pattern in the second half, and soon an assist pass from Ruckhaus gave flyhalf Brian Arko all the room he needed to streak in for a long-distance try. Next up was Ruckhaus as the mobile forward sprinted 50 meters on another assist from his good friend Moises Veleta. Brian Arko dotted down after a sprint from midway compliments of a perfect spin pass from hooker Miguel Santillanes Lopez, and minutes later utility forward Josh Hudgeons crossed after a pass from the hustling Ruckhaus. Brian Arko completed the try-fest with another 50 meter-plus dash after taking a pass from Bernal. Along the way to a 61-7 Pygmy win Ruckhaus kicked 10 conversion points and Arko knocked over six.

Brian Arko was named Man of the Day by his teammates. Tech will kick off their last match of the fall season against the Lobos at 1 p.m. November 21 at UNM's Johnson Field.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director