UTICA — A dozen men gather on a muddy field to chase a ballcarrier. The ballcarrier flips the oblong ball behind him. The man waiting drops the ball, kicks it with his toe, and the ball flies to the sideline, into the waiting arms of a child.
It’s just another Friday evening at Utica’s soccer field. It’s the weekly practice for the Rugby Ranch Mud Boggers, a rugby team based in Utica.
Rugby is perceived as a rough sport played by big, burly men who are out to destroy one another. In reality, rugby is quite the opposite.
“We’re all friends,” said Saul Meza. “If you go out with the intention of hurting someone, you’re going to get hurt yourself. That doesn’t happen. This is grace under pressure.”
Meza, 42, is the club’s head coach. He is also a player and, when needed, a referee.
The Mud Boggers got started last year. Meza and assistant coach Dave Glenn met Mike Travis at a UFC event in Martinsburg. They noticed each was wearing a rugby jersey. They started talking, and decided to form a club in Utica.
“We started with mud bogs in my backyard,” Mesa said. “That’s where we got the name. We borrowed some players from Columbus to help us (spread the word).”
They started with three players in May 2010. Now there are 14 listed on their website, with more coming out every week.