Annual Steamboat rugby tournament today will honor Steve ‘Zog’ Herzog |

Annual Steamboat rugby tournament today will honor Steve ‘Zog’ Herzog

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs rugby player Mark Hermacinski tries to tackle Eric Dorris during practice in June. The Steamboat Rugby Club will be looking for its fourth consecutive home tournament title as the Cow Pie Classic begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ski Town Fields.

— As the season starts for the Steamboat Rugby Club, there is always talk about completing the big three: winning the Mountain League, winning the Cow Pie Classic and winning the Ski Town Classic rugby tournaments.

But the reality is, the Cow Pie Classic is always the big prize.

The 36th annual edition of the Cow Pie opens up at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ski Town Fields next to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The tournament will be played in honor of Steve "Zog" Herzog, a local rugby player who died in December from complications from a sinus infection.

Steamboat, winner of the past three Cow Pie championships, again will be the favorite, with Wyoming, Vail and an Idaho Select side expected to try to bump Steamboat off its perch.

"This is the No. 1 goal every year," Steamboat team captain Michael Hurley said. "It's always our No. 1 goal to win our own tournament at home."

The tournament will feature three pools with three teams in each. The team with the best record in each pool will advance to the semifinals. A fourth semifinal team will be decided by record, then point differential and finally points scored.

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Steamboat is in a pool with Glenwood Springs and Santa Fe, N.M. The team plays at 10 a.m. against Glenwood and noon against Santa Fe.

"I'm really looking forward it," said JoJo Bucci, who is flying in from Chicago to play with the Steamboat team after missing the tournament last year. "This has been on the calendar looking forward and working toward. This was always my first rugby club, and I look forward to having a run around with all my friends."

In addition to the Steamboat Rugby Club, Steamboat also will field an Old Boys team and a women's team. The Old Boys team plays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and the women's team will play the Colorado Cougars at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Men's semifinal games are set for 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. with the championship game slated for 8 p.m.

Hurley said the key to the day with short 25-minute halves would be solid defense. Considering the short game, it will be tough for teams to come back from multiple tries. It also might come down to which team is the fittest. The two teams that meet in the championship game will have played four games in one day, and the team that can withstand the most punishment should have the best chance for victory, Hurley said.

"The most structured and fittest team usually prevails," Hurley said. "You play a lot of rugby during the day, and there are no second chances."

A toga party at Sunpie's Bistro at 735 Yampa St. will follow the tournament.

— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail

If you go

What: 36th annual Cow Pie Classic rugby tournament

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Ski Town Fields

Cost: Free

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