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PWC Owls Give A Hoot About Rugby

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PWC Owls Give A Hoot About Rugby

A player for the Prince William County Rugby Football Club, also known as the Owls, holds tight to the ball as a player from the opposing team attempts to tackle him.
When the ballcarrier gets tacked in the rough-and-tumble sport of rugby, they don't blow a whistle so everyone stops. In rugby, with its scrums and rucks and mauls, tackling the guy with the ball is only the beginning.

It's just one of many novel characteristics about this ancient game.

"There's just nothing like it in the world," said Chris Ferrio of the amateur Prince William County Rugby Football Club (PWCRFC), founded in 2012 and known to fans as the Owls.

Chris, of Lake Ridge, and his brother Andrew, of Woodbridge, have played for the Owls since the club's formation.

"The camaraderie of the sport is unparalleled," continued Ferrio, who mans the loosehead prop position in the Owls' scrum formation. "The whole ethos of the sport is that you can beat each other up on the field, then both teams come off the field and go have a good time together. The guy you were tackling a few minutes ago is now your best friend."

Ferrio and his teammates are in preparations for the upcoming fall season in Division IV of the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) Union, under the guise of USA Rugby. Coming off the most successful season in the club's short history, with an 8-2 record good for second place, this year's Owls have their eyes trained on getting more wins and gaining more fans.

"We've been establishing ourselves in the sport and in the community," said club president Brian McGettigan. He oversees a team comprised almost entirely of Prince William residents, playing its home games at American Legion Post 28 in Triangle.

"We're just a bunch of like-minded ruggers that love to get together, have a lot of fun, spread the sport and be involved in the area as much as possible," said McGettigan, employing the slang term for rugby players.

McGettigan said the Owls have partnered with a slew of local businesses on blood drives, fundraisers and holiday parades. He said Post 28 has been instrumental in its support.

Comfort with rugby's almost 200-year-old lingo is just one indication of how far the Owls have come since their birth in 2012, and they're bringing this largely unknown game with them.

Running up the field

Founded in large part by the effort of then-resident Sean Gill, the PWCRFC began life as a fill-in team. During the 2012 season, the local club went to regional tournaments in search of a place to play, and learn, the game.

The following year, the Prince William club secured enough players to complete a full roster. They adopted the name Owls and assumed a spot in MAC Union's Division IV, competing against decades-old clubs around Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The Owls went 0-8.

"We were growing, though," Ferrio recalled. "We were learning the sport and learning how to play with each other."

With the addition of some new players, and some new skills for the old players, the Owls went 4-4 in 2014. The upward trajectory continued last fall with their eight-win total.

Ferrio ascribed the club's on-field growth to good old-fashioned teamwork.

"You're going to get hit, you're going to get beat up," Ferrio said. "It's the teams that come together that give themselves a chance."

And size, according to Ferrio, doesn't matter. Firefighters, teachers and information technology professionals are among the Owls' day jobs.

"We have guys who break the 300-pound mark, and we have guys who are 120," said Ferrio, one of the beefier Owls at 260 pounds. "This sport is for everyone across the board."

McGettigan and Ferrio made clear that they welcome anyone interested in becoming a fan or a player for Prince William's rugby team.

"Don't be shy," McGettigan said. "We post everything on our Facebook, so we invite people to come out to see it for themselves, and maybe run around the field with us."

One Owls player looks to find support down field to offload the ball in search of a try, or a five points.

Your PWC Owls

Full name: Prince William County Rugby Football Club
Nickname: The Owls
Established: 2012
Fall 2015 record: 8-2
Spring 2016 record: 3-1
Next game: Sept. 10 at Philadelphia
Next home game: Sept. 24 vs. Pax River
Home field: American Legion Post 28, Triangle
Website: www.PWCRFC.com
Facebook: /PWCRFC
Twitter: @PWCOwls
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