As part of Division 2 in the Rugby Northeast Conference, the Warriors play against such schools as Holy Cross, Providence College, Bentley University, Saint Anselm College, Saint Michael’s College with their biggest rival being UMass Lowell. Newburyport resident and nine-year head coach for St. John’s Prep, Maurice Kauff, will be doing the same job for the Warriors this fall and has seen incredible growth in his sport.
“Rugby is where lacrosse was 10 to 15 years ago,” said Kauff. “When I started (at St. John’s Prep), there were maybe 15 teams we could get a game with in all of New England. Now there are upwards of 80 high school or U19 teams in New England.”
Although things may look brutal from a layman’s perspective, Gurczak says the game isn’t as frightening as it seems.
“Guys on both sides don’t really want to get hurt,” Gurczak said. “We know certain ways to tackle people, running into people that won’t get ourselves hurt. In football, a lot of people have helmets so they think they can lead with their head. In rugby we don’t have helmets, so we don’t think to go head-first into people. We try to use more of the shoulder.”
Currently training for his fall season, Gurczak sees himself playing long after his time at Merrimack is over.
“I thought it was going to be exactly like football but without pads,” Gurczak said. “But you have to think about it a lot differently than football. There’s no blocking or anything it’s just kind of a different mentality completely.”