When the Plattsburgh State Men’s Rugby Club takes to the field Saturday against Hamilton for their fourth match of the season, they’ll do so with a heavy heart. Prior to the game, the team will remember Jason Concepcion, a member of the team who died unexpectedly this summer due to complications from dental work.
Concepcion, a Bronx native, passed away June 22 from mono and a severe infection that followed his wisdom teeth removal. The team will formally retire the number four, which Jason wore last season, before the game, with Concepcion’s mother and family in attendance.
“Jason never played a sport until he came to rugby,” club President Chuck Gordon said, “but he was a star athlete.”
Gordon said that Concepcion was in line to become a captain this season, citing his flexibility in the lineup, his drive and his easy-going nature.
“It really is just a tragedy what happened,” Gordon said. “We made sure to make it a point every game we play to honor him.”
The Cards, 0-3, look for their first win of the season against a formidable Hamilton side. Several key veterans graduated last spring, according to Gordon, which means plenty of young players and rookies have had to step up early in the season. Although Gordon commends the effort they have put into the game, only one of the rookies played rugby before arriving at Plattsburgh and several had never played organized sports before.
“They have a tremendous amount of heart,” Gordon said of the new ruggers. “[They want] to learn the game, want to play and want to go to the next level.”
Arranging practices around class schedules poses a challenge to getting everyone on the pitch together. For a sport that depends greatly on teamwork and chemistry, the pack players or backs often have to practice with at least one or two starters missing. Even though it gets more players experience, it’s essential to get all the starters together, Gordon said.
Two years removed from a state championship and a top five national rank, Gordon hopes the team can get back to the success they had before, even if it comes after the senior graduates.
“I think we can make a name for ourselves as we did in the past,” Gordon said. “It’s about having returning veterans and having the guys who have been there a couple years to show the new guys the way of the game.”
Before Plattsburgh can return to dominance, it starts with defeating Hamilton Saturday in remembrance of their fallen teammate.
“But for this game Saturday versus Hamilton, it is all about Jason.”
The tribute for Concepcion will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the rugby pitch behind Sibley Hall and kickoff is at 1 p.m.
Email Ken Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org