Dexter Rugby Football Club has to be one of the most successful high-school-age programs in any of the codes of football played in the area. Based in the Dexter School District, from which they draw most of their players, while also recruiting from surrounding districts that have no Rugby programs, the Dexter Devils have fielded the best team on the eastern side of the state for the last four years, reaching State Division One semi-finals twice and twice finishing as runners-up in the annual State Championship match. Despite coming from by far the smallest school district in Division One of the Michigan Youth Rugby Association, despite having to play against high-school varsity teams and programs with longer histories and/or middle-school Rugby, the Devils have repeatedly proved their quality. Among in-state opponents, only two western powerhouses can boast winning records against Dexter in the last four years: Grandville (1-0) and Rockford (2-1). Last year’s team once again over-achieved, winning Division One East and then reaching Division One playoff semi-finals before going out to a strong Rockford side.
Dexter’s success has been built on the imaginative coaching of joint head coaches Paul Burke, who played the game at the top club level in his native England, and Doug Karaska, who won a State Championship at Brighton High School and still plays at the senior level for Tri-Cities RFC. They have again and again built outstanding teams, recruiting high-school boys with no previous exposure to the game and creating excellent attacking sides, playing adventurous Rugby that takes advantage of the skills of every player. No wonder ex-Devils shine for college sides and senior clubs from Ann Arbor to State College, PA, and beyond.
Now Dexter’s coaches are urging all players returning from the side that lost in the semi-finals last year to sign up for the new fall indoor program at Brighton’s Legacy Center, while also encouraging both middle-school and high-school boys who have never played before to use the Legacy Center program as an opportunity to try out what is probably the fastest-growing team sport in the country.
Burke, ever aware of how close his side came to glory in the championship matches of 2014 and 2013, has urged everyone to prepare for next spring’s season by committing to play indoors on fall Saturdays. “It is a great opportunity to learn the game or to develop the skills you learned in previous seasons”, he said; “indoor will be great place to learn the game and have some fun”. For just $105 (including $15 Legacy Center annual membership) players will get eight weeks of one-hour matches on Saturday afternoons, from the end of October into December. Building on the success of last winter’s program at the Legacy Dome, coaches (from Dexter and other area Rugby programs) are now offering not only a high-school, but also a middle-school indoor session, and the Devils’ coaches are optimistic that this will provide an opportunity for their own club to emulate the most successful programs across the State, where some high-school seniors have played the game for six years.
For further information on Dexter Rugby, go to the Facebook page for “Dexter Rugby” or to the club web site: www.dexterrugby.com. Follow DRFC on Twitter @DexterRugby. Photo credits: Gina Bryson.