The rugby pitches in and around Grittleton, England, are the old stomping grounds of current Archbishop Hoban students Dane Kersh and Grant Kersh.

The Kersh brothers lived in the village, about 90 minutes from London, for four years and learned how to play rugby after their father’s job transferred the family abroad.

Rugby challenged young Dane and Grant on a consistent basis with regards to endurance, and taught them the importance of team play, hard work and how to improve athletically.

“It was fun because we had a lot of family time together and rugby is huge there,” Dane said. “We traveled all over the place and played against different countries. We played against Wales, Scotland and others. You have to be in better condition in rugby. There is no stopping. You run and tackle and then you get up and run and tackle again.”

The Kersh family returned to the United States four years later, and now Dane and Grant are members of the football team at Hoban (12-1), which will meet Zanesville (12-1) in a Division III state semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Dane, 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, is a senior captain who starts at middle linebacker and punter. Grant, 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, is a junior starting at kicker and long snapper.

“The Kersh brothers have been huge for us this year,” Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell said. “We knew Dane all along because he played as a sophomore for us at outside linebacker. He was a little skinny kid. He is a very physical kid and a very big student of the game.

“Grant was a quarterback as a freshman and wanted to play quarterback or wide receiver. As a sophomore, he didn’t really want to give up that dream and concentrate on the kicking. We knew he was good, but he didn’t want to dedicate his time to kicking. Then this past offseason he was considering not playing football, and I said ‘We’ll give you a chance to concentrate on kicking and have fun with it.’ The next thing you know, we see him in the weight room getting stronger. He has turned into an unbelievable kicker.”

Dane has 35 solo tackles, 50 assisted tackles, 11 tackles for loss, one interception, and is averaging 36.6 yards per punt with a long of 49 yards. Grant has made 57-of-59 extra point kicks, 7-of-10 field goals with a long of 40 yards, and was the long snapper on punts due to injuries last week when Hoban beat rival St. Vincent-St. Mary 24-21.

“We watched the game on film and Grant made two great solo tackles against an unbelievable punt returner [St. V-M junior Malik Wooldridge],” Tyrrell said. “Grant was running down the field and making tackles, and he’s our kicker.

“Dane has worked hard in the weight room, and has always been fast and aggressive.”

Dane, 17, and Grant, 16, were born in Findlay and then lived in Ottawa, Ohio, as kids. Their father, Steve, moved the family with his sales job with Cooper Tires to England with his wife, Jodi, and their two youngest children. Dane and Grant’s older brother, Jake, now 26, stayed back with family and graduated from Ottawa Glandorf High School.

Dane was in first grade when the family moved and Grant was in kindergarten.

The family returned to the U.S. four years later when Steve’s job relocated them to Kent. They attended St. Patrick Catholic School and developed a passion for football.

“The basic concepts are the same with tackling and running, but a lot of rugby rules are different than football,” Grant said. “We have both enjoyed each sport.

“I have almost always been on Dane’s team for baseball, football and basketball. I am pretty used to it now. It is cool to play together.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.