Younger Bears get chance to prove worth in weekend matches

With many of the starters sitting out in preparation for their match with Stanford in two weeks, players on the Cal rugby frosh/soph squad will get a chance this weekend to prove that they belong on the field with their varsity teammates.

The younger Bears will play in a pair of matches, first taking on Cal Maritime at Morton Field in Vallejo, Calif., on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’ll start to focus on who is our best frosh/soph team,” coach Jack Clark said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple more frosh/soph guys that matriculate to the varsity level.”

As a predominately young team, the Bears (4-0) need nothing more than playing time and experience, both of which will be provided to the underclassmen at the Friday matchup with the Keelhaulers (4-0), a much older and more experienced team.

“They’ve got really tough guys at Cal Maritime,” said senior Connor Ring, who won’t be playing this weekend. “It’s a good early test for our frosh/soph guys, and it’s been that way ever since I’ve been here.”

In 2009, the Keelhaulers led Cal, 3-0, at halftime, and the Bears had to scrape out a 24-3 win. And in 2010, the Bears managed just 39 points, one of their lowest scoring outputs of the season.

Then 2011 happened, and Cal exploded on Cal Maritime for 85-0 win. The Bears physically outmatched their opponent, and had no trouble moving the ball en route to notching 13 tries. But coach Jack Clark is less concerned about the final score in this weekend’s game and more concerned about how his younger players handle themselves.

“There’s not going to be a lot of talk about results,” Clark said. “There’s a couple times when varsity has to go win, but other than that, what we want to do is just get better.”

However, Clark has also stressed to his young squad that its job is to go out and represent Cal rugby as a whole and not just be a frosh/soph squad trying to match a varsity-level team.

“I don’t want them to go out and just play in reserve grade games,” Clark said. “We’ll keep this on our record, and if Maritime beats us, they beat Cal. They didn’t beat our frosh/soph team, they beat Cal. I want these young freshmen and sophomores to have that responsibility.”

The Bears will then be back in action Saturday morning when they head to Santa Clara to take on the Broncos at 1 p.m.

Based on the forecast, the match will likely be played in rainy and slippery conditions — which is just another opportunity for Cal to face additional adversity.

“You want them to play in miserable conditions,” Clark said. “All of that is good for the team — to have as many of those experiences as possible under their belt.”