McDonald Stars on the Farm
Monday, May 3, 2004
Mike MacDonald's college rugby career ended in an unexpected way- the 6-foot-1, 260-pounder was carried off on the shoulders of two teammates after they defeated Cal Poly 46-24 in the USA Rugby national championship game.
The awkwardness of that sight aside, MacDonald's career ended in perfect form.
In leading the Cal rugby team to its 20th national championship, the prop earned tournament MVP honors.
MacDonald played 160 minutes of rugby over two games in two days. He contributed only one try but was the heart of a Bears defense that stymied the Mustangs in the championship game.
"I thought Mike MacDonald played his best game of the year," fellow forward Anthony Vontz said. "He was huge on defense, making the right plays at the right time."
MacDonald already has experience in international rugby as a member of last season's U.S. World Cup team. He likely will step into a professional rugby contract for next season.
But even as he goes on to a professional career, it is unlikely that he will see the pressure he faced this season.
After the team lost the championship last season, the first group of seniors in a dozen years graduated without being crowned champions in their final year, MacDonald was handed the responsibility of captaining the team as it headed on its quest for another championship.
"It means everything. I talked to a few guys from last year's team-they were just as pumped as we were," MacDonald said. "The opportunity that we had, they didn't have last year. It just feels so good to win, not just to win for our team, but for those that weren't able to win last year."
MacDonald's parting with the program marks the end of an era. A fifth-year senior, his final game was bittersweet for coach Jack Clark.
"It's just sad. If I thought long enough about it, I would get back into my own little self-pity," Clark said. "It breaks my heart to not play an active part in his life and him play such a big part in mine."
While MacDonald carried on one of the storied careers in Cal rugby, another fifth-year senior was a more surprising star.
Jacques Wilson, who has spent a sizeable amount of time on the reserve-grade team this season, played his way into the starting lineup for his final college game. Wilson scored two tries Friday against Navy to earn the honor.
"On merit he was selected for the game today," Clark said. "He wasn't there because he was a senior. He worked his way into the lineup in the second-to-last game of the season."
Wilson made Clark's decision pay off as he scored the team's second try of the final. A speedy wing, Wilson consistently pressured the Cal Poly defense. Wilson had been one of the few players who was on the field for both the Bears' 58-18 loss to the Mustangs and their 46-24 championship game victory.
"This is a time when I'm proud of my teammates, but even more importantly I'm really proud of myself," Wilson said. "I just looked myself in the mirror before the game and said I would give it all I had. And now, it feels unbelievable."
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