Rugby

Migos bumped through the speakers as the players tossed the ball around during warm-ups. The referee met with the captains at midfield. Between the two field goals that bookmarked either end of the field, the two teams huddled up in the moments before the opening play.

On a warm Mississippi Saturday, the atmosphere matched a college football game-day. 

The Mississippi State University Rugby Club MADDAWGS lost to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 36-24 Saturday afternoon. It was the MADDAWGS' first Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference game in USA Rugby’s Division I-AA.

The Yellow Jackets scored two tries, which are worth five points, in the last five minutes of the game, leaving the MADDAWGS unable to recover. Despite the loss, head coach Jeff Pilgrim said he felt the team played great, but Georgia Tech was able to do more after a tackle was made.

“We played more pure rugby on offense than them,” Pilgrim said. “They were a little better on the ball after the tackle was made.”

Alex Cox, a junior agricultural science major from Flowood, Mississippi, scored a try 10 minutes into the game. The MADDAWGS were down by just two at halftime and led for a period during the second half.

The 80-minute game, which began at noon with a temperature in the low 90s, proved challenging for both teams. John Detamore, a senior flyhalf from Memphis, Tennessee, said the team could work on being in-shape, as younger players do not have the match fitness.

“We’re in a rebuilding stage. So, a lot of these guys are brand new,” Detamore said. “This is their first game, maybe second game.”

The MADDAWGS suffered some notable injuries during the game. Detamore, who is team captain, came off late in the game with a shoulder injury. Cameron Massengill, a junior inside center from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was vomiting and caught cramps in both of his hamstrings during the second half. The battle stays on the field once the game ends, as Georgia Tech joined the MADDAWGS for a post game social.

“I’ve played so many sports and there’s no other camaraderie like it,” Detamore said. “Once we’re off the field, they’re [Georgia Tech] going to go to the social with us.”

The game attracted some vocal Maddawg alumni, who could be spotted wearing their old kits, and a handful of supporters. Ian Evans, a junior biomedical engineering major from Memphis, Tennessee, said he was watching one of his classmates play.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the field,” Evans said. “They’ve got a really nice setup. The team seems to be playing really well. I don’t know a whole lot about rugby—I’m a soccer guy myself.”

For people who are unfamiliar with the sport, Detamore said the team will occasionally hand out fliers to help fans understand the game. Although the season has already begun, the team is still recruiting players.

The loss puts the MADDAWGS’ record at 1-2 for the season. The MADDAWGS' next division game is at Middle Tennessee State University this Saturday, and their next home game is Oct. 26 against the University of Memphis. Pilgrim said if the team can win the majority of the rest of their division games, they will have shot at postseason play.

“Right now, it’s still up in the air,” Pilgrim said.

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