Making a total of 99 tackles in 2020, Veritas junior Eli Ravelo helped his team end their season 8-3. He credits his success on the football field to the skills he learned on the rugby field.
Ravelo began his high school career as a defensive lineman. Head Coach Jason Black noticed Ravelo possessed many talents. At the end of Ravelo’s freshman year, Black informed him that he would be moving to a linebacker position. According to Black, linebackers cover more ground with more responsibility.
“I told Eli he had the talent; he just needed to trust us and put the work into it,” Black said. “Eli worked on ways to grow his game, including improving his tackling skills. Outside of football, playing rugby is one way to gain more tackling practice.”
Enrolling in a local rugby club, the Phoenix Firebirds, Ravelo got more assertive and built more confidence in himself and his techniques. His rugby efforts paid off when he made more than 90 tackles during his sophomore year.
“I had a friend who played rugby,” Ravelo said, “and it truly did help my tackling and my ability to be aggressive on the field by defining my skills and angles on tackles. Rugby involves open-field tackling, which is like what a linebacker does.”
After his success on the rugby and football fields, Ravelo recruited some of his teammates to play rugby.
“If Eli’s going to get better at something, he finds a way to do it,” Black said. “That’s who he is; everyone knows he’s going to put the work in to get the job done right. He’s got the heart of a champion.”
Black credits rugby with his players’ improved performance on the field. Describing their football program as “a small school in a huge pond,” Black says they’re still working their way up the ranks.
When Black began as a coach four years ago, Veritas had not won more than three games a season. Because they were often considered such easy pickings, they played many homecomings and senior nights. Then, the first-year Black was coach, they won four games, and as their abilities steadily increased, they have found themselves making it to the playoffs the last two years.
“We don’t necessarily have the biggest and strongest players,” Black said, “but we have a team of kids who work hard because they know nothing is going to be given to them; they must earn it. They have found their edge – they play smart and fast.”
As for football and rugby, Ravelo enjoys playing both sports.
“When I’m playing rugby, I think this is the most fun,” Ravelo said, “and when I’m playing football, I think that’s the most fun.”
Ravelo is hoping to earn a college scholarship to play rugby in the future.