Labry Memorial Shield takes precedence in Mid-South rivalry

D1A Rugby: Labry Memorial Shield takes precedence in Mid-South rivalry

BOULDER, Colo. – Opening the Mid-South season with losses to Life, both Davenport and Lindenwood are staring at the possibility of falling to 0-2 in the hyper-competitive conference. The March 12 fixture between the highly-ranked Canterbury D1A Top 20 programs is not only important based on league standings, but it’s also the third annual Charles Labry Memorial Match.

Dedicated to the life and memory of Lindenwood rugby player Charles Labry, who passed away in October of 2014, the Memorial Shield is up for grabs once a year when the Panthers visit the Lions.

“We were disappointed losing the first match in 2014,” Lindenwood Head Coach JD Stephenson said of the inaugural Memorial Match. “So, when we were able to win it back in 2015, it was a great feeling. “

Davenport is equally humbled and inspired to be a part of such a special occasion.

“The Lindenwood rugby community has done right by Charles in the way they’ve put the whole thing together, and we’re very proud and honored to be a part of it,” said Davenport Head Coach James Wood. “The rugby community has always had a bit of a family dynamic to it, and this match in remembrance of Charles Labry is more of the same.”

Whichever team raises the Memorial Shield at full time will have to play better than it did in its first Mid-South game of 2016. No. 2-ranked Life flexed its muscles in a 30-point win over Lindenwood Feb. 27, and followed the performance with a 48-point handling of the Panthers.

“We knew it was going to be a massive test, and it was just that,” Wood said of his team’s opener against the Running Eagles. “We’re going to need to be better going forward.

“Our communication, spatial recognition, and on-the-fly adjustments need to be improved upon, as well as our defense on kickoffs. Everything I’ve seen on film is fixable, now we just need to get it done.”

One Davenport player, albeit an All-American from 2015, wouldn’t have made a difference in last week’s one-sided loss to Life, but the return of center Anthony Welmers will be a welcomed sight to the Panthers, nonetheless. Welmers missed the Mid-South match while competing with the All-Army Selects in last week’s Las Vegas Invitational.

Meanwhile, Stephenson says the Lions’ camp has stressed continuity and consistency since its defeat to Life. Additional touches for recently capped Eagles Deion Mikesell and Lorenzo Thomas couldn’t hurt, either. Thomas, a hulking outside center, dotted down in his debut against Chile and earned his second start in a USA kit this past weekend against Uruguay. Not to be outdone, Mikesell scored in his Eagle debut against Uruguay.

Regardless of which team wins on the scoreboard Saturday, the Labry family will find some sort of consolation in knowing Charles’ memory thrives through the sport he loved.

“Charles was a happy, genuine, cheeky person who wore his heart on his sleeve,” Stephenson described. “He had an infectious smile ear-to-ear that could light up a room. As a player, he was eager to give 100 percent for his team on the pitch, a strong defender and a great ball carrier. He was a great man who will always be remembered, and we hope that we can honor him on Saturday evening.”