Black and Blue Rugby
By JOSEPH TERRY The Daily Inter Lake
Down a score with five minutes left on the clock, the Kalispell Black and Blue needed a huge rally to win the state rugby championship on Saturday at Evergreen Junior High. The rally, and the winning try, came on the back of the smallest player on the pitch. Dustin Longtin, a small but quick back for the Black and Blue, scored the second of two tries for Kalispell in the last five minutes of the game, charging through a thick line of Bitterroot defenders to give the Black and Blue a 24-20 lead with a little more than a minute left. Kalispell struggled to score in the second half, allowing 20 straight points to the Warriors, beginning with a try at the last second of the first half. Bitterroot stole all of the momentum, charging down for three tries in the second half and taking a six-point lead on a penalty kick that bounced in off the crossbar. The lead was significant, putting Kalispell down more than a try with about 10 minutes left to play. Needing a boost, the Black and Blue picked up the intensity and went back to an attacking, aggressive style of play that allowed them to dominate the first half. Senior wing Mike Bare fought through to touch down a try in the corner with five minutes to play. Trailing 20-19, Kalispell had a chance to take the lead with a conversion kick, but Devin Jeffries, a star in the tournament who scored the first try of the game, missed the sharp-angled kick. As Bitterroot tried to advance back into Kalispell territory following the score, Bare came up again, intercepting a pitch at midfield and bringing the ball inside the 22-meter line. After a few rucks and penalties, Kalispell got the ball inside five yards, where Longtin was able to pick up the ball in a crowd and plunge into the right corner for a try. The Black and Blue missed the conversion kick, but was able to hold on for the win, despite a hard charge from the Warriors that saw them get inside the 22 and threaten with a game-ending score. "I was just trying to tell everyone to keep their heads up," Jeffries said. "We weren't done. We knew if we were just physical we could come back and win and that's what we did." Jeffries was the catalyst of the Black and Blue offense in the first half, using his imposing size to run through defenders. He broke through the middle of the Bitterroot defense in the first half and rumbled 50 yards for a try, dragging a pair of defenders the last stretch before touching the ball down in front of the goal posts to set up an easy conversion. "The adrenaline gets going and you just have to truck it hard," Jeffries said. "Sometimes they just get scared to tackle you and you just keep trucking at them downhill." The Black and Blue scored just a few minutes later when Dawson Day took the ball off the ruck and darted over the try line to touch down a score, putting Kalispell up 14-0 following a conversion from Jeffries. In the earlier match, Kalispell cruised by Missoula 31-5 in a game that got a little chippy at the end. The two teams had to be separated in the closing minutes after tempers boiled over between the conference foes. Jefferies scored the fist try of the game and helped set up two spectacular runs by Grant Tafoya, who made a pair of shifty moves to get free on both to score long tries. Kalispell led 26-0 before Missoula was able to score, and the Black and Blue capped the scoring with a quick try from Hunter Garbacz. "The kids worked incredibly during th offseason," Kalispell coach David Kenkel said. "We just really wanted it. They dug down, used the extra energy in the tank and got in done."

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