Sharks’ 7s Side Sails Through Hell Gate

Montauk tourney to be July 21
The champions were, starting from the left, Frost, a loaner from Suffolk Bull Moose, Steve Early, Jorge Calderon, Brandon Johnson, Jordan Johnson, Steve Turza, Kevin Bunce, Josh King and Nate Campbell. McKenna Sallinger

The Young Turks of the Montauk Rugby Club, which is to say their college-age players, sailed through the Hell Gate 7s tournament on Randalls Island in New York City this past weekend at 6-0.

It was the first tournament of the season for the Sharks’ 7’s side, in whose number are Brandon Johnson, Jordan Johnson, Josh King, Jorge Calderon, Steve Early, Morgan Rojas, Steve Turza, and Nate Campbell. 

The pared-down version of 15-on-a-side rugby is, because there is virtually no time to breathe, more demanding and faster, especially if the ball gets out of the rucks quickly. Also, because a shot through a gap can quickly translate into a breakaway, tackling is critical. Brandon Johnson and Jordan Johnson, his cousin, were the wingers, but in 7s speed is uniformly important.

“We’ve got athletes all over the field,” Calderon said during a conversation at The Star Monday. “Two of the games, the semifinals with Old Maroon, an upstate team, and the finals with the Naughty Boys, a New York City team, were dogfights. I forget the scores; it was a long day. Our first game [7s games comprise 10-minute halves] was at 9 and our last one was at 3:30.” 

Other teams in the tournament were Albany, the Village Lions’ A side, and the Bull Moose, a club based in Farmingdale with which Montauk may combine for play this summer and fall, a combination that ought to resolve what has become a numbers problem here lately.

Calderon and Rojas played with a Bull Moose entry that recently won the Four Leafs 15s tournament, also on Randalls Island. And a Bull Moose player, known as Frost, played with Montauk’s side this past Saturday, as did Mike Jablonski, a former Montauk player who lives now in Mattituck. 

“We get along with them [the Bull Moose players] off the field, but not on the field,” Calderon said with a smile. 

The Section XI Warriors, a combined youth team coached by Kevin Bunce and Jablonski that has players on it from East Hampton, the North Fork, and Shoreham-Wading River, competed as well, in the elite interscholastic division, winning one and losing three, said Calderon, who was, along with his teammates, happy to have their support.

Brandon Johnson is playing rugby at Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland, King is playing at American International, Jordan Johnson is to attend New England College in the fall, Early played the sport in college and has coached it at the college level, Rojas is playing at York College in Pennsylvania, Calderon, who is studying at Suffolk Community now, is interested in transferring to a college that offers architectural courses, and Campbell, here for the summer, is on Jamaica’s national team, Calderon said.

Montauk is to play host, Calderon said, to a 7s tournament of its own at Lions Field in Montauk on July 21. “So far, Suffolk Bull Moose and Rockaway have said they’ll come. We are talking with Brooklyn, and Steve has two teams coming from Connecticut.”

The locals are to play in a 7s tournament on the Jersey Shore the following week.

During a conversation following the 15s season last fall, Charlie Collins, a Montauk Rugby Club spokesman, acknowledged that the Sharks, which wound up at 3-5 (three of the losses owing to forfeits), had been hurting numbers-wise, though the aforementioned young blood, he said, had been most welcome and augured well for the future.