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Rugby Team Tackles Tough Foes, Rough Streets
He was astounded, however, by what he saw at the first practice.
"You pass the ball backward ? Not forward?" he remembered thinking. "That's not right ."
The team has to deal with challenges and setbacks unimagined by wealthier schools and rugby clubs in the area.
Yesterday, team members turned out at 7 a.m. to block off broken benches in the stadium with yellow caution tape. They also discovered that a window of their 24-passenger bus had been smashed in -- again. The bus is vandalized regularly, Bayer said. A few weeks ago, someone tried to set fire to it.
But for many of the players, such trials are minor compared with what they've faced off the field.
Two of team member Travelle "T-Mac" Blount's friends have been shot to death, and he's lost others to drugs and the streets. The Southeast Washington senior said he was also headed in that direction until he found rugby.
"It helped me stay out of trouble, stay off the streets," he said.
Now Blount, a senior, is applying to such universities as Radford, Penn State and North Carolina State and plans to major in engineering or computer science.
"I never thought I'd go to college," he said. "I never thought I'd make it this far."
Yesterday, Hyde got off to a slow start in its game when Gonzaga scored two "tries," or goals, in the opening minutes of the first half. By the end of the half, the score was 12-0 Gonzaga. But Hyde regrouped in the second half, and the game ended in a tie.
Hyde came back from a miserable first half, Bayer pointed out. The players didn't give up.
It's a lesson he drives home again and again. "No matter what," he tells them, "you may be down, but you're not out."
Staff writer Petula Dvorak contributed to this report.