Boys rugby team wraps up sevens season while head coach goes professional


Dat Hoang

Kenneth Hollowell (10) places his hands on Dat Hoang (12) to support him as Hoang guards the back of Kyle Nagel (12). Nagel grips the jersey of Caleb Frambo (11), forming a ruck to retain possession of the ball despite the successful tackle against Frambo by the towering opponent. The Spartan rugby team emerged victorious from this game in the Battle of Memphis tournament.

Six players dig their heels into an open field as a teammate takes the kick-off in front of them. The pungent odor of grass and sweat captures their senses, and clear communication rings in their ears locking in their focus to the game and only the game. While the rugby ball slices through the air, the Spartans charge toward their opponents, fearless in the face of impact. Scrum-half Kyle Nagel (12) looks to his left and looks to his right, knowing that his teammates or brothers will be there to carry the ball to the try zone and score. 

During fall, the boys rugby team plays its sevens season, which requires seven players who can score five points by taking the ball to the opposition’s end of the field, otherwise known as a try. The Spartans demonstrated their ability to score through tries and kicks during their first tournament. 

“They hit the field [for the first time since 2020], and they looked sharp,” head coach Christian Hollowell said. “There were a few mental errors, but that’s what practice is for … Those boys just hit a spark that I’ve never seen out of them, and they were just so into it … They came to the field knowing what they were going to do and did it.”

Hollowell took over as head coach for the 2021-2022 season after years of involvement as a former player and friend to the team. He was inspired to foster the skills and strengths of the players and further develop their capabilities. 

“My love for the game and … what really made me want to coach was seeing the kids do what most can’t do, meaning skill-wise, and helping them go from not knowing anything to ‘Wow, these kids are getting signed to colleges; they’re getting looks, and they can go places,’” Hollowell said.

The opportunity for Hollowell to lead the program arose when former head coach Ethan Scott accepted an unexpected offer to play professional rugby, one that he could not pass up despite his history with the Spartan rugby team. However, Scott’s brother and father remain with the program as assistant coaches to Hollowell. 

“When I applied for the Major League Rugby collegiate draft and I got drafted, it was a total surprise, and the things I had already started building with my time at White Station had to be put on pause, unfortunately,” Scott said. “My older brother Jacob [Scott], who is also a Spartan rugby alumnus, and my dad [David Scott], who used to coach the team a few years ago, both have stepped into that role for me, and I feel like the team is in great hands now.”

With an experienced coaching staff and profound sense of community, players find their greatest advantage in how cohesively they can work together and connect with their coaches. Long-standing traditions allow the team to prepare for matches and rely on each other. 

“We’re always ready for the things that most teams aren’t ready for or that they get scored on with,” Jayden Ciaramitaro (11) said. “Our biggest preparation point for a game is [that] … we usually have spaghetti dinners with our coaches, and our team is together … if we didn’t sit there and get that bond time in before every game, I don’t feel like we would be as on point as we need to be or as together as we need to be.” 

Most first pick up rugby as a way to stay fit for football or another sport, but once individuals practice with the team, they experience the tight-knit camaraderie between veteran players, rookies and staff and tend to discover a passion for the sport.

“I like [rugby] because of the bond that I have with the coaches and our players,” rugby hooker Dat Hoang (12) said. “I love just having that chemistry with everyone and that I don’t have to worry about anything.” 

A mutual goal of returning players is to win the state championships as the culmination of their effort and training. They will have chances at this during sevens season and during spring, when rugby teams transition to fifteens season, adding more athletes on the field. 

“We’ve always kind of been the underdogs, and we’ve always made it to state, but we never really won state,” Nagel said. “I think this year we have enough people and enough chemistry that we could really do a lot this year. We’ve got a lot of potential.” 

Scott’s premature departure from White Station rugby to play for the Seattle Seawolves stands as a testament to the prospect of playing past high school and seizing opportunities to continue doing what he loves. He hopes that the team will be self-assured in their abilities and aptitude to succeed.  

“I just want … these students honestly to realize what kind of potential there is for them beyond high school rugby and even beyond college rugby,” Scott said. “My goal for this team is to inspire them to take rugby as far as they can and to give them the confidence that they can not only … dominate at the high school level, but these players can go on no matter what their body type is and no matter what their knowledge or skill level is right now.”