Isaac Ramirez, a hefty 240-pounder who also plays football for La Jolla High, explained that this inbounds play is called a line-out, one of many foreign elements in a sport that’s growing more and more popular among high school athletes, both boys and girls, these days.
The challenges in the line-out include the inbounder’s skill in accurately spinning the awkward-looking ball (originally made out of pigs’ bladders) for a good throw, and the hoisted player’s ability to grab the ball at the height of his jump. It’s easy for the latter to topple over as he is lifted up. With either a bad throw or the flyer not peaking at the right moment, the play goes awry. That happened over and over at the Viking practice.
A basic challenge in the sport is just learning to throw the ball, which resembles a mini Goodyear blimp, about 11 inches long. It is spun with both hands gripping it near the middle, kind of like on an underhanded lateral in football.
“Backs are quicker, forwards are bigger,” Dirk Germon, a Viking sophomore, simplified for a novice. The two worked out in separate groups on skills and tactics during part of the practice on the LJHS softball field under head coach Bill Leversee and his assistant coaches. The fog rolled in on this Thursday evening, adding to the exotic feeling of the British-originating sport. “We practice until it gets too dark to see,” said Leversee.
Another basic is the ball can only be passed backwards, kicked forward. An exciting play, the articulate Germon related, is when the scrum half, kind of like the quarterback, fakes a pass to the fly half, then runs up the middle with the ball to put it down.
“Rugby is 35 minutes of continuous play,” related Thomas Evans, a senior statesman among his teammates. A try is a scoring play in which an offensive player is able to reach the goal line and places the ball down. It’s worth five points. A kick through the goalposts after the try is worth one point for a total six points, the highest you can get in one scoring sequence.
Zach Jacobs, father of Tucker Jacobs, former Viking football and rugby star, pointed out that La Jolla graduated 10 of its 15 seniors from last year’s team that won the championship. “As a result, we’re kind of in a rebuilding year,” he said.
“It’s intense. It’s physical,” Max Smith, 15, said of the sport. He is a sophomore who shares his skills between football and rugby. “You have to want to hit. You have to let everything go and not worry about getting injured.”