It was Thursday, April 27th when the journey began. The Deadbird brothers met together at their infamous home, Deadbird Land, to make final preparations for the treck ahead. Once all were acounted for, it was a mere 20 minutes before we reached the airport and only another hour before we set off. Some among us had already began to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the trials ahead while other only tried to rest, that they may be ready for when their time came. Upon arriving we set up shop at the hotel, and travel-weary all set to sleep early. The following day would be our last time together at practice before war would be upon us.
We were roused at dawn on April the 28th and began to make ready for what was ahead. We were set do battle against those known as Cal-Maritime. We knew little about them other than their size, but that matter not. Deadbird blood runs thicker than just mere size. With our bellies full of breakfast we made the short walk to the field and established our locker room. From there it there would only be a warm up and then the fight of our lives.
Kick off was the same as any other, but what followed was beyond what one may call normal. The clash which insued between us (clad in all white for the first time) and Cal-Maritime (sporting the same color blue that we would call our own) can be described as nothing less than biblical. Before a quarter of the game was over the Deadbirds had proved their worth by putting up more than a fair share of unanswered points. However, what appeared to be what could be an easy win quickly darkened. Cal-Martine retaliated with a number of quick tries, much to our desmay just before the half. Sending us into half time with the score at 19-10 Deadbirds. Coach Rich and Coach Houston came out to the field to discuss strategy as we gained a short respite. They told us the game could still be ours if we would but fight to the last man. Heading into the second half we were prepared for anything. Cal-Maritime had grosely underestimated us in the first half but the scolding they received was a lesson well learned. Before we knew it, the score had narrowed to 26-24 with the Deadbirds at only a hair’s margin of a lead. Broken, bruised and bloodied, we continued on despite losing a number of players to injury and concussions. Unfortunately the tides of war soon shifted against us. With so many already lost, the Deadbirds were unable to retake the lead after Cal-Maritime pulled ahead putting the score to 26-31. In the 81st minute, they gained possesion, kicked the ball to touch and ended the game. It was indeed an emotional time for all the Deadbirds. Rage, Anguish, all these came to a head as we left for the lockers. It seems it had been so long since last we lost, we had all forgotten the bitter tatste of deafeat. And indeed it was bitter in our mouths. However, we remained confident that from such hardships are bread new opportunities for victories.
When we came upon the field the following day, the weather seemed to be welcoming us to play. Salve Regina felt the same. Though we were confident in our own abilities, the squad was yet riddled with injuries and many starters would not even have the chance to set foot upon the field. None the less, it was our duty and sacred privledge to continue on in their honor. With an early and thundering try, the Deadbirds drew first blood against the Christian school. However, they would prove unwilling to allow that to go unanswered. Before long they had tied us and taken the lead. Continuing injuries on the field would prove to be a plague upon the Deadbirds as the score reached 21 5 in favor of Salve Regina. With our bodies failing, all that continued to fuel the Deadbirds was heart and the will to fight until the very last breath, which is what we did. Not until the final whistle blew did we contemplate ceasing. With heavy hearts we accepted defeat. However, to have come so far so fast made it seem only a drop of bitterness in a great reservoir of greatness.
Deadbird Rugby remains the pride of all involved from player to coach to spectator alike, as their season, finally, commits to end with a record of 12 wins and 2 losses. No one will easily forget what we accomplished, especially those who claimed victory over us… this time.
Written by UNF Prop Taylor “Thor” Youngling