Ironside’s Improved Defense Fuels Run To Finals

Ironside's George Stubbs
Photo by Brian Canniff —

In 2013, Boston Ironside met Seattle Sockeye in the semifinals of the Club Championships. In that game, their defense converted only two of six break opportunities. They lost by one.

On Saturday, Ironside found themselves in another semifinal matchup, this time against Raleigh Ring of Fire. In a highly contested battle between the clubs, Boston’s defense scored six break points on seven attempts.

They won by one.

Boston Ironside, by their own admission, has been a team in recent years that didn’t have enough offensive talent on their defensive line to win a championship. Their offense has always been the strongest aspect of their club. To finally get over their runner-up blues, Ironside knew that would have to change.

“We just didn’t have enough fire power,” said head coach Josh McCarthy. “We made the decision to load up on D.”

And load up they did.

The most notable addition to the defensive squad for the Boat is George Stubbs. Last year, Stubbs was a key part of Ironside’s offense. After falling short of a championship again, though, the team decided to make a big change.

“I feel like I am a pretty versatile player both ways,” Stubbs said. “I am a good enough athlete to have a pretty big effect on the top players in the game.”

His effect on Ironside’s defense has been immediate and impressive. This weekend in Frisco, Boston’s defense has been outstanding. Ironside has consistently held their opponents under 10 points, forced a high number of turnovers and have contained some of the best offensive players in the game.

The real measure of Boston’s improved defense, though, is their break conversion rate.

In each of their games this weekend, Ironside has converted at least 50 per cent of its break point opportunities. In their two biggest games — quarterfinals vs. Rhino and semifinals vs. Ring — Ironside convert 5 of 6 and 6 of 7 break chances, respectively.

A conversion rate that high makes Boston a scary matchup. There can be no question that the addition of Stubbs contributes greatly to the success of Ironside’s defense, especially after the turnover.

In the semifinal tie against Ring of Fire, Stubbs was masterful on defense. He often drew the matchup of Ring’s best cutter, which was mostly Ken Porter or Christian Johnson. Neither player scored for Ring while Stubbs was on guard.

This has been Stubbs’ assignment all year. In the Northeast Regional, Stubbs guarded Mark Lloyd. At the Club Championships, Will Driscoll, Jimmy Mickle, and Dylan Freechild have been some of his match-ups.

But it’s his offense that can take Ironside to the next level.

Of the six breaks Ironside had in the semifinal, Stubbs threw four of them. The other two, he put gorgeous hucks deep to streaking cutters who eventually threw the scores. His composure on the disc, cutting ability, and deep game add a new dimension to Ironside’s defensive offensive that they haven’t had in the past.

“We moved George over to defense to help us out,” McCarthy said. “Of course Mark Sherwood wasn’t a part of our original plan, but once he’s here, he adds quite a bit to our offensive ‘oomph.’”

Sherwood is the other piece of Ironside’s championship puzzle. The former Revolver star joined the Boston club late this season, which added another dimension for Ironside. Not only is Sherwood a fantastic defensive player, but he is a gifted cutter who is comfortable with the disc.

Sherwood’s presence arguably saved Boston’s season.

On double game point in Saturday’s semifinal, Sherwood made the biggest defensive play of the night. After turning the disc multiple times near the end zone, Ironside found themselves defending close to their own goal line. A huck went up toward the end zone, where Sherwood and Joey Cretella battled for the disc. Sherwood got in perfect position, boxed out Cretella, and swatted down the disc.

Boston moved the disc down the field, and eventually scored the game winning point to move on to the championship game.

In all honesty, though, the game should have never reached that point.

Ironside had a 8-4 lead at halftime, and were up 11-6 before Boston’s offense broke down and gave up four straight breaks to Ring of Fire. After being two points away from reaching the final, Ironside quickly found themselves tied 11-11, and facing a potential devastating collapse.

“We had no cutter to cutter flow tonight,” McCarthy said. “Ring did a great job of disrupting our cuts and continuity.”

During that run, it should be noted that George Stubbs played a number of offensive points, where he looked slightly out of place. They were making uncharacteristic mistakes, bad decisions, and simply getting beat to the disc.

Luckily for Ironside, they pulled it together, and got back to the “basics” that coach McCarthy wants to see from his team.

It’s games like tonight’s that makes the new and improved defense of Ironside so key to their success. On a night where the normally consistent offense was terrible, the defense stepped up and carried the load, scoring nearly half of the teams points. Stubbs, Sherwood, and rookie Jeff Babbitt have added significant depth to a defense that could become the most important part of the team.

If Boston wants to win their first title as Ironside, their defense will have to continue playing at a very high level.

Boston will be facing a deeply talented, experienced team in Johnny Bravo Sunday afternoon in the final. Bravo is undefeated on the weekend and beat Ironside Thursday during pool play. Johnny Bravo does not turn the disc over very often. When they do, it will be crucial for Ironside to convert break chances at a high rate if they want to compete against the Denver club.

This may be Boston Ironside’s best chance to win a championship in recent years. They have the talent, they have the drive, and, most importantly, they have confidence in themselves.

“I think mentally, we’re in a really good spot,” Stubbs said. “We’re here to win each moment, not to win a championship…If we focusing on winning the moment and we play the defense we know we can, and we play chilly offense that is our offense, we’ll be in a really good spot.”

“We have to trust that if we put everything on the field,” he said, “the right outcome will happen.”

  1. Matt Reese

    Matt Reese is an Ultiworld contributor living in Texas.

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