By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY —
August is a month when most teenage boys are thinking about the upcoming high school football season.
But 16-year-old New Albany resident Keaton Byrd has his mind on another sport throughout the year — rugby.
Byrd, who will be a junior at St. Xavier High School in Louisville for the 2013-14 school year, has played the contact sport the past two years and has become quite good at it.
“Keaton is one of the best players in our Kentucky league,” St. X rugby coach Scott Saylor said. “Keaton gives you 110 percent. He’s such a tough nut and he tries to make a play for us all the time. He’s a student of the game. He watches a lot of film and a lot of matches on TV to learn more about the game.”
Byrd plays the position of scrum half, which Saylor compares to being a quarterback. Byrd and his St. X teammates play a schedule stocked full of formidable high school rugby programs. Those foes include archrival Louisville Trinity and Ohio perennial powers Cincinnati Moeller, Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cleveland St. Edwards.
Byrd has been the starting scrum half the past two seasons. Last year, he was named the team’s most valuable player as the Tigers won the Kentucky state championship over Trinity.
“It was a pretty big accomplishment,” Byrd said about the state title.
Byrd’s performance in the state championship match helped him earn a spot on the Kentucky High School All-Star team.
As an All-Star, Byrd played in four All-Star games during the offseason. He competed in a contest against Indiana South on May 25 in Indianapolis. Then on June 1, he played in a match versus an All-Star team from Tennessee in Nashville, Tenn.
During the weekend of June 8-9, Byrd and the Kentucky All-Stars participated in the Midwest Championships in Elkhart in northern Indiana. In the Midwest Championships, Byrd helped the Bluegrass Stars pick up their first-ever victory in the national competition.
Last month, Byrd got to play in a rugby camp at Life University in Marietta, Ga. The school has one of the best collegiate rugby programs in the nation, as the Life men’s club team won the 2013 Division I National Championship.
Byrd says the speed of the game attracted him to play the sport.
“I like the game just because it’s so quick, and you have to make fast decisions on the field,” said Byrd, who attended elementary school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Albany.
After he graduates from St. X, Byrd would like to play collegiate rugby.
“It would be a pretty big accomplishment for me,” he said. “I would be the first player at St. X to play college-level rugby.”
Saylor says Byrd can definitely play at the collegiate level.
“I think he has a chance to continue to play the sport. He can go a long way,” Saylor said. “There are a lot of college programs out there, and Keaton is a potential candidate to play at any of them if he chooses that route.”