All posts by Alonzo Olmedo

USA Rugby invades Irving


The city of Irving hosted the USA Rugby Men and Women’s Senior Club National Playoffs at the Las Colinas Polo Grounds in Spring Trail Park.  The sudden-death tournament was held May 17-18 and showcased 20 teams in the quarterfinal and semi-final rounds.

In Men’s Division I competition, the New Orleans Rugby defeated the Sacramento Lions 62-32. The crowd favorite Dallas Reds, or Dallas Rugby Football Club, blew out the Los Angeles Rugby 51-5 in the quarterfinal round.

Dallas RFC tight-end, Chris Hopkins, said the team just stuck to the game plan against Los Angeles.

“We just played our game. We tried to stay together as a unit and won all our set pieces. Spreading the ball wide sucked everybody in. That is a big component to our game; set pieces. If we get that were pretty unstoppable,” Hopkins said, after a decisive victory over Los Angeles.

Dallas advanced to the final four for the first time in franchise history, which led to a much-anticipated rematch between New Orleans and Dallas in the semi-finals round. Dallas had gone 0-1-1 in the previous last two meetings against New Orleans.

“This is the result that we wanted; New Orleans in the final four. We needed another shot at them,” Hopkins said.

In the final round of four, New Orleans and Dallas went head-to-head for the third consecutive time this season. New Orleans controlled most of the first half and gained a 24-point lead over the Reds.

Dallas cut the lead to just five points in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback as New Orleans beat Dallas 24-19. The season came to an end for Dallas, but Reds player Chris Hopkins gained a lot of appreciation for the season.

“Being a part of a club with a bunch of guys that have your back – it’s been the fun part of my life being a part of this club and coming together as a team. Four years in the making and this is the result. Never as a club have we’ve been this far and in that it’s a satisfying experience,” Hopkins said.

New Orleans will now move on to the 2014 Division I National Championship Finals game on May 31 from Madison, Wis. against the winner from the Pittsburgh bracket, The Life Running Eagles from Georgia.

In Men’s Division II action, The Tempe Old Devils defeated Glen Dale Raptors D2, 35-22.  The Little Rock Stormers beat the Snake River Rugby 63-41. In the semi-finals the Tempe Old Devils were victorious over the Little Rock Stormers 55-37.

The So Cal Kings won 31-21 against the Kansas City Islanders in a Men’s Division III encounter. Dallas Athletic lost to the Life West Gladiators 31-14. The Gladiators clinched a finals berth by defeating the So Cal Kings 17-22.

The Oregon Sports Union beat the Austin Valkyries 46-5 in the Women’s Division I results. The Santa Monica Dolphins fell to the Denver Black Ice, 41-14, but it would be the last time Denver would score a point this season. Oregon Sports Union reached the women’s Division I finals with its 56-0 shutout win against Denver in the semi-finals.

In a quarterfinal meeting between two Women’s Division II teams, the Sacramento Amazon blew out the Houston Athletic 88-7.  In the same round, The Las Vegas Slots reached the Semifinals by defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 55-17. The Sacramento Amazon squeezed by the Las Vegas Slots 26-22 as it secured its place in the Women’s Division II Championship game.

At the end of the weekend, the rugby community seemed satisfied with the efforts from the city of Irving as a host city. “This is the second year in a row that Irving has helped us host this particular tournament,” Treasurer of the Dallas Rugby Football Club. Daniel Drabinksi, said.

“Last year they [Irving] hosted the sweet sixteen. This year we are able to host the final eight and final four.

“Certainly the efforts put together through Irving and Dallas Rugby Club have created just a phenomenal venue.  The fields have come together a little bit; with the rain recently, it definitely could have used a little bit more work.

“Certainly we would have like the irrigation a little bit better. We would like the field a little bit more in shape for a tournament of this status.

“Overall it’s a phenomenal event, we’re happy with the way everything went through from the Irving police and setups, we are very pleased with the event,” Drabinski said.




Havoc and pressure propel Lady Cardinals to playoffs

After a 51-44 victory over the Hebron Hawks, MacArthur High School’s Lady Cardinals basketball team advanced to the second round of the playoffs where they went head to head against the undefeated Duncanville Pantherettes.

The Lady Cardinals, led by head coach Suzie Oelschlegel, held the Pantherettes to 52 points.

“The game plan was to slow down and control the tempo of the game. I was really proud of the girls that they stuck with the game plan. I thought our defense did a really good job. They (Duncanville) were used to scoring in the 70s, and we held them to right at 50,” Oelschlegel said.

Despite shooting 4 of 11 from the free throw line, the Lady Cardinals were only down 12 points at the half. Duncanville was held to a season low in scoring, yet managed a late offensive push by scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter.

MacArthur lost to Duncanville 52-29, thus ending the postseason for the Cardinals.

“The first half particularly could have gone either way; we were that close to them, the sky is the limit. I was really proud of them, and I told them after the game.” Oelschlegel said.

The MacArthur Cardinals concluded the season with a record of 23-7, finishing in second place for district 6-5A. They also went 4-0 against city rivals Nimitz and Irving. Early in the season, MacArthur defeated Lewisville, McKinney North, Richardson, Round Rock and Plano West to win the Allen Eagle Lady Hoopfest tournament. The Lady Cardinals even hosted an exhibition game against a south Australian team which they won 51-41.

MacArthur was ranked fifth in total offense while averaging 59.6 points per game, scoring a total of 1,608 points for the season.

“One of the reasons why we were up in the top five offensively is because we are a transition team. We like to get up and down the court. Basically we would push the basketball and beat people down the floor in a fast break. That has been my philosophy in the last 10 years,” Oelschlegel said.

Freshman Guard/Forward Tory Jacobs was one of the notable players that helped MacArthur play at a higher level. She was the 14th highest scorer in the area and averaged 15.4 points per game and scored a total of 417 points for the Cardinals, including a 30-point performance in the bi-district round of the playoffs against Hebron.

Defensively, the Cardinals allowed fewer than 50 points per game this season and ranked in the top 25 in total defense.

“We like to play an up-tempo game. I love defense; I love to create havoc against our opponents with the pressure that we put on the basketball. That is the part of the game that I really love, and of course that turns into points, and it turns into offense. The defense becomes your offense,” Oelschlegel said.

A past winner of the National Coach of the Year award, Oelschlegel led the MacArthur Cardinals to a season with many accomplishments and accolades. Coach “O,” as referred to by many of her players, continues to be one of the more idolized coaches in the area.

“It’s been a season of a lot of ups and downs, I am real proud of the way the girls fought the fight and kept hanging in there. We really try to depend on the team concept; we talked about that all year long on how important it is to play as a team. We won the championship of Allen; we were the second place team in the district and made it to the second round of the playoffs. We were the bi-district champions; we went two rounds deep into the playoffs. We won 23 games, which anytime you win 20 plus games, that is an accomplishment in itself,” Oelschlegel said.

“In my career, I have had a really strong trust in the Lord. A lot of people won’t get that, but some people will,” she continued. “I pray a lot; I just try and put my faith and trust in Him, and He is always faithful.”

Murderball champions share stories of perseverance

The 4th annual Quad Rugby tournament was held over three days at Senter Park Recreation Center by RISE Adaptive Sports. The six-team tournament included competitors from as far as Switzerland, and the gym was filled with family, friends and supporters.

SOURCE: Rise Adaptive Sports
SOURCE: Rise Adaptive Sports

Quad Rugby is just one of the many activities that RISE provides for the physically disabled. Quad rugby, or Murderball, is played with the same intensity and strategy as the original game. Teams score points by crossing the goal line with the ball. Defenders try to deny the offensive team from crossing the goal line with hard contact and good coverage. Each wheel chair is built for impact and fast movement up and down the court. Each player is classified by a panel and monitored by three physical therapists, and in accordance with the league’s rules and regulations, the coaches set there lineups based on these designations. The action brings out the best out of each competitor. Teammates Mike Peacock and Eric Ingram helped lead the No. 1 seeded TIRR Texans to a championship as they defeated the No. 2 seeded Switzerland Fighting Snakes in the tournament final, yet the sport has a much deeper meaning for both men.

Twenty-four-year-old Eric Ingram, who is known as “Flea” by his fellow Texans, was born with disabilities that left him physically bound to a wheelchair. Since the age of 15, Ingram has competed in quad rugby, traveled internationally and made lifelong friends because of the sport.

“The sport is an amazing outlet for energy, but also it’s a really great community. A lot of people (have) similar backgrounds, not necessarily life backgrounds, but the disabled—it’s a really tight community,” Ingram said, describing the importance of having quad rugby in his life. “I’ve competed in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Florida, Arizona and Connecticut. I know people from around the world, and we are all friends. It’s awesome to go out there and ram into other people in wheelchairs, but (there are) also a lot of friends out there. It’s intense.

“It’s the hard hitting of football combined with the quickness of basketball, that’s a pretty awesome combination. It’s nice to go out and be athletic and competitive. There is a stigma that people with disabilities are fragile, but they don’t see much of our community, so this really opens it up. It’s intense. We are trying to win something. This is a competition, and it opens people’s eyes that we are not handicapped people, we are people that are just playing a sport.”

Ingram, who was named Most Valuable Player award for the tournament, believes his story can inspire others that face the same challenges. “Other people in wheelchairs, that are thinking their lives are over or that they are just going to sit inside and do nothing all day, … come out and see this sport … (and) it opens their eyes to the possibilities that they can expand their lives beyond just being a handicapped guy… .”

Twenty-eight-year-old Mike Peacock was given the award for being the best in his 2.0 class. The road that led him to quad rugby started at an early age. At 17, Peacock broke his neck after diving into a swimming pool. The injury left him wheel chair bound, paralyzed from the chest down with limited hand and arm function. Now a 10-year veteran of quad rugby, he shares what he has learned from his experiences with RISE and Quad Rugby.

“I have been doing this for 10 years, and it’s amazing. It’s definitely benefited me throughout this entire injury—from getting a spinal cord injury and being able to be competitive in sports again. It’s amazing, and I love it. It’s the only full contact wheel chair sport, and its loads of fun.

“… in high school, I didn’t even know that you can break your neck and survive. For individuals going through a rough time, I would say never give up; there is a whole wheel chair community out there. Get involved in something that definitely helps. I remember coming in with a new injury and being with these guys, especially the veterans. The support that they give you is unparalleled with what you can learn in the hospital. Never give up; there is a whole life out there.”

Bowie claims city championship after undefeated season

Middle School Football

On the cold, rainy night of Nov. 4, the Bowie Cubs’ seventh grade football team faced off against the Travis Bobcats for the Irving ISD City Football Championship in the Irving Schools Stadium. Bowie’s head coach, Michael Minks, told his players during the week leading up to the game to stay focused no matter how much success the team was having.

“On paper we look pretty good, but we don’t play the game on paper, we play the game on the field. A team shows up to play, they will beat you,” Minks said.

In 2013, the Cubs’ identity enforced hard nose defense and a running game that was quite effective against opposing teams.

“Most of our plays are in between the B-gap (formation). If we can’t run the B-gap we are not going to win,” Minks said. This proved to be the perfect recipe for success on a night when Bowie overcame foul weather and a Travis team that was ranked third in offense and fourth in defense.

The Cubs unleashed their powerful running game, which was led by Christian Nelms and David Moreland who combined for three rushing touchdowns that helped catapult Bowie over the Bobcats.

After four quarters in the chilly rain, Bowie came out on top, shutting out Travis 24-0. The Cubs had just finished one of the most dominating years in the school’s history, ending their season 8-0, undefeated for the first time since 2004.

During the season, the Cubs scored 198 offensive points, which led all schools in IISD. The closest follower were the Sam Houston Texans who scored 145 points. On defense the Bowie Cubs allowed an average of 7.6 points per game, which included 3 shutout victories. Bowie’s defense gave up only 51 points all season long.

“This kind of team only comes around once every ten years,” Minks said of his outstanding A-team that include Christian Nelms, Will Donahue, David Moreland, Ray Arredondo, David Armijo, Kelly Akharalyi, Daniel Martinez, Jaylin Oliver, Larry Wright, Alex Chacon and Luis Flores.

Yet, after a city championship victory, Bowie’s entire coaching staff stressed that the best moment of the season is being able to see so many of their players realize that education comes first.

“The main obstacle is not just on the field but off the field as well. Football is one thing, but when they learn to take care of themselves in order to help the team we accomplish a lot,” Minks said.

The final standings for A-team seventh grade football placed the Bowie Cubs in first with a perfect record of 8-0. They were followed by the Travis Bobcats at second with 5-3. There was a tie for third between the De Zavala Hawks and the Sam Houston Texans, each with a 4-3-1 record. The Lady Bird Johnson Eagles finished in fifth with 4-4. The Lamar Lions got sixth with 3-5, followed by the Crockett Cougars and the Austin Broncos in seventh and eighth place with 3-5 and 0-8, respectively.

Bowie’s success didn’t stop with the A-team, as the Cubs B-team finished the season at 6-2 and were also crowned city champions with a 14-0 victory against Travis. Outstanding players for the B-team include Chris Lozoria, John Mendez, Walther Rubi, Cole Draper, Josh Rodriguez and Miguel Zepeda.


Unite for Troops supports vets from two generations

For the past twelve years, the Unite for Troops drive in Irving has collected supplies for deployed soldiers and paid respects to veterans.  Held on the Saturday before Veterans Day, Unite for Troops has grown bigger each year, taking up more space at Porter’s Army Navy store, deep in the heart of downtown Irving.

The origins of the drive started just one day after the September 11 attacks. Cindy Porter, the wise of the army/navy store’s owner, Steven, shared some of the memories from the first drive they put together: “The first event we did, all we collected was socks. They asked for white socks because they would use them not just for their feet but also to protect their guns, and items from the sand. We had one hot dog stand, and two or three people sang songs through a speaker,” she said.

Since then, the number of volunteers has increased dramatically. With representation from the Irving Fire Department to the Girl Scouts of America, Unite for Troops has become a true community event. “Our city is very representative on how our community cares. Being so grateful to the military and proud of their country is what comes from the community,” Cindy said.

100 percent of the profits raised by event sponsors and food vendors went towards shipping USO care packages overseas. Last year alone, the shipping costs added up to 3,000 dollars. “Everything that is collected goes to shipping because that is our biggest expense. We had donations left over last year but had no money to send them on,” said co-coordinator for Unite for Troops, Darlene Dean.

Schools, businesses and citizens are encouraged to drop off donation items at the event. Requested items include travel size snacks and toiletries, travel size pillows and overseas phone cards. “We encourage people to drop off items at the store even after the event; last year we received a lot of items after the drive because many did not know about it before,” Darlene said.

Once they are packed and sent off to a USO in Afghanistan the donations arrive at Kandahar Air Field where they will be distributed at three locations where the items are most-needed. “Because of all the cutbacks the government has done, soldiers that are in transit to their next station have gotten some of their supplies cut short…Soldiers in a Forward Operating Base get no communication, they get no mail, they might only be there for are there for six to nine weeks. There is no way of we can ship anything directly to them,” Dean said.

According to the USO/Kandahar donation coordinator, DJ Stanhope, there are around 1,000 visits daily from troops who need supplies but leave empty handed. “The reason we work with the USO (is) so it’s assured it gets to where it’s needed the most,” Cindy said.

Appreciation for the troops is not only shown through donations but also understanding and healing. “…(All) the items we collected will go to the troops overseas, but we can’t shake (our troops’) hands or pat them on their back. But when our veterans come, we can; we want them to know that this is for them. This event can create healing,” Cindy said, recounting the story of one Vietnam Veteran who finally broke his silence at Unite for Troops. “Linda Spencer, a director at the Irving Heritage Center (said) her husband, who was a Vietnam Vet, had not been able to speak about his past experiences. That year for the first time, (Mr. Spencer) came to the event, got on the stage and spoke about his experiences in front of someone for the first time ever. Healing happens,” she said.

Unite for Troops will honor Vietnam Veterans with an official welcome home party from 10 a.m. To 4 p.m. On Nov. 9 at Porter’s Army Navy. (600 E. Irving Blvd.). Festivities include a 70s costume party and a welcome home cake. Games, craft tables, prize raffles and even a petting zoo will be a part of this year’s celebration. Ribbons will be given out to veterans and their families in order to identify those that need to be appreciated for serving in our military. Three live bands will play on stage before the Joshua Experience Orchestra tops off the event at 3 p.m. Unite for Troops will be collecting items and donations for soldiers overseas all day.