Bootleggers Close Out Fall On a High Note

10622917_10203043604871404_8597011849748238890_nThe Clayton Bootleggers closed out their inaugural season on a high note with back to back wins. The new squad took some lumps early in the Fall, after starting off the season with a very difficult stretch of games against Division III playoff teams. As a brand new club in the region, it would have been easy to take the safe road and schedule light. However, it was important to the club to see where the team stood in regards to some of the better Division III teams in the region.

Consecutive, and lopsided losses, to Southern Pines, Camp Lejeune, and Chapel Hill gave the club a pretty good idea of where they stood. To the credit of the Clayton players, they went out and played hard against the odds and they slowly began to show improvement. With almost half of the lineup consisting of players in their first season of rugby, it was a slow learning process, but progress was being made.

The Bootleggers followed up that tough stretch with their first, and only, home game of the Fall season. Clayton faced off with another tough opponent in the Charlotte Barbarians. Charlotte came away with a 40-5 victory, but it was a much closer game than previous matches and Clayton competed neck and neck for long periods of the match. The Barbarians wore down the inexperienced Bootleggers and picked up a handful of scores late in the match to pull away.

Slowly beginning to turn the corner, the Bootleggers had another major breakthrough with their away match against Cape Fear. In their first four games of the Fall, the Bootleggers only managed one try in each match, but they notched three against Cape Fear and posted an even closer score than previous efforts as they fell 40-19.

Riding a little bit of momentum, the club headed to Greensboro in late October, joined up with some players from Gaston, and faced off against Guilford College. The collegians scored right out of the gate, but the Bootleggers bounced back to take the first lead of the club’s history. The squad wouldn’t relinquish the lead as they rolled to a 58-10 victory. A long-awaited and satisfying victory for guys that battled hard earlier in the season in the face of much better opposition.

The Bootleggers then followed that victory by closing their season out with an exciting win over Cherry Point. The two clubs played a sloppy first half with Clayton taking a 10-5 lead into the half. Clayton left a handful of scoring opportunities to waste in the first half, but showed signs of life. The clubs came out and exchanged scores in the second half before the Bootleggers went on a 15-minute rampage to extend their lead to 42-10. The men from Cherry Point put in a late charge as they roared back to life. Cherry Point brought the match to 42-30 as time expired.

It was a tough season, but many lessons were learned. The Bootleggers have shown growth throughout the season and take some optimism into the offseason. Clayton will use the offseason to heal wounds, improve their fitness, and hit the recruiting trail. Now that the club’s first year of existence is in the books, the pressure is on to improve upon this first season. There are a few positions left unsettled and the club will now look to add some depth to their roster.

While the Spring season is expected to be lighter than the Fall season, the club plans to play a few games over the course of the Spring to keep active. Stay tuned as the Spring schedule begins to take shape.

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