DC Current Overcome Controversial No-Call To Take Down Rumble In Overtime

The DC Current's Sean Keegan grabs the disc in front of the New York Rumble defender in Major League Ultimate.
Photo by Sean Carpenter — UltiPhotos.com

After a controversial no-call at the end of regulation, the DC Current rallied in overtime to take down the New York Rumble 19-17 and put them one step closer to the playoffs.

Sean Keegan stepped up in the absence of an injured Alan Kolick with an assist and a score to help the Current ring up the first two points in the extra period. Current coach Keven Moldenhauer was happy with Keegan’s performance, but not surprised. “Those are the things we expect of Keegan,” he said.

The Current should not have needed the late rally to win. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Markham Shofner put up a big huck to Jeff Wodatch, who went up and brought it down over the outstretched arm of the Rumble’s Rob Baker. With less than fifteen seconds on the clock, Rob Dulabon got open in the endzone and Wodatch stepped around to throw a backhand. Simultaneously, Baker laid out and Andrew Wilkes ran past Wodatch; both made contact and clearly fouled him, but the referee did not make a call.

Baker wanted to invoke the MLU’s “Spirit of Sportsmanship” to overturn the ruling, giving possession back to Wodatch and the Current. However, since no call had been actively made by the referee, the only procedure for Baker – as it would be for any player in that situation – was to pick up the disc and throw it to the ground. By the time Baker was made aware of the rule, the clock had reached zero.

Wodatch was visibly upset on the field as a cluster of Current players talked to the referee in the interim between regulation and overtime. Ultiworld asked to speak with Wodatch after the game, but he was not made available for an interview.

Baker said after the game that he had attempted to give the disc back to Wodatch. “I just did an all out, go-for-it layout,” he said. “Wilkes and I both fouled him.”

He was surprised there was no call by the referee just feet from the play, but said, “The refs can’t see everything.”

Moldenhauer said after the game that the rule in that situation “needs to be changed immediately.” He feels that players should be able to overrule referees calls — or non-calls — in any situation.

“The spirit of the game means we need to be able to make those calls,” he said.

Ultimately, the play didn’t come back to haunt the Current; they scored the first three points in overtime to seal the critical road win.

Even after the frustrating end to regulation, the Current felt good heading into overtime. “We could just feel it on the sideline that we were going to get breaks,” said Dan Kantor. “We just felt the momentum.”

Ryan Todd got things going for the Current in overtime with a run through block on a misread by a Rumble cutter. He continued his momentum downfield as Keegan picked up and hit him in the endzone for the 17-16 lead.

On the next possession, the Rumble turned it over again and Markham Shofner put up a perfect huck to the back of the endzone for Keegan to extend the Current lead to two.

New York started to force the issue, needing some quick scores with just minutes left in the period. A Dan Heijmen huck on the ensuing possession was too lofty and got blocked in double coverage by Rico Johnson. Jonathan Neeley found David Cranston in the endzone with a hammer to secure the victory with a three point lead and just over a minute to go.

The game was very tight throughout, but was decided by great defensive pressure from the Current and strong performances from each team’s role players. Both squads were missing some of their biggest stars. Alan Kolick, who has been nursing a tweaked hamstring, started the game for the Current but came out in the first quarter after aggravating the injury.

“If this were any other game, he wouldn’t play,” said Moldenhauer, acknowledging that it may have been a mistake to put him in at all.

The Rumble’s Chris Mazur, in the running for Conference MVP, suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter and did not return. He came into the season with the same lingering injury and will now have to aggressively rehab in order to be able to play in the team’s final game in two weeks.

He says he’ll play regardless of his health status. “Whether I’m 50%, 60%, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Later in the game, Dan Heijmen also went down for the Rumble, although he would return — though clearly not playing at full speed — during overtime. Ben Faust, a huge component of the Rumble deep attack, was out of town this weekend.

With both teams facing lingering injuries down the stretch of the season, the upcoming two weeks will be critical for their top players to get healthy. Both teams have doubleheaders in two weeks; the Rumble play the Whitecaps on Saturday and the Current face the Spinners. Neither game matters — whoever wins the Sunday matchup in Washington will head to the playoffs to face the Whitecaps in the Eastern Conference finals.

Kantor, who expects the Rumble to field all of their missing stars in two weeks, expects the team to go for the win against the Spinners, even though it won’t matter to their playoff chances.

“We really want to go .500,” he said. “I don’t expect us to rest our starters.”

It has proven difficult for teams to win the second game of a back-to-back in professional ultimate. The coaching staffs of both teams will have big decisions to make in their upcoming bye week as they prepare for the final — and much more important — match. Since they share equal records (3-5) and a split series (1-1), the winner of the rubber match is guaranteed to make the playoffs.

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