LEMONT – Arguably the most successful athletic program at Morton has been the boys rugby team.
The Mustangs wrapped up their season on Memorial Day by beating Predators, a Fox Valley-based club, 37-12 to take third place at state.
It is the seventh time in the past eight years Morton has finished in the top three.
“We’re disappointed because we had expectations of playing in the final,” Morton coach Aaron Sweeney said. “Taking third is nothing to sneeze at.”
Despite the popularity of the sport at Morton, the Mustangs keep 60 kids and have to make cuts, almost all of the players are coming to the sport later and some in the middle of high school. Five seniors, Isaias Delgado, Fabi Naranjo, Charlie Guzman, Josue Saucedo and Raul Aceves, graduate as four-year members of the program. Those five headlined a group of 37 seniors.
“It’s a group that had a lot of talent, a lot of four-year guys,” Sweeney said. “We were just a little bit unlucky this year and it does take a little bit of luck (to win state).”
Despite the number of losses, Sweeney is confident with where the program is. Plenty of new blood continues to show up for tryouts every year and he was excited about a sophomore group that will anchor the team during the next two years.
“We’ve got some really good looking sophomores, which we’re looking for to getting them on the field and coaching them up,” Sweeney said.
In addition to its Illinois high school schedule, Morton competed in a regional tournament among a field of eight top high school and eight elite club teams. The Mustangs went 2-1 at that tournament and nearly beat a nationally ranked team in the only loss.
While seeing the best the area and the region have to offer, Sweeney has noticed improvement in his team and others.
“I think in general the tides are rising across the board,” he said. “We are certainly better as a program than we were five, six, seven years ago and I think other players in the state are saying the same thing about themselves.”