October 1, 2015 by Charlie Eisenhood in Interview with 10 comments
Last year’s semifinal between Boston Ironside and Raleigh Ring of Fire was one of the wildest games ever played at the National Championships. Ironside had built a more-than-comfortable 11-6 lead, but as the sun set on Frisco and the crowd got rowdier, Ring flipped a switch. They went on an amazing five run tear, tying the game at 11 before Ironside could finally get another score.
Ring followed that with a score that set up a highly anticipated double game point. Nobody could have expected what came next: a 20+ minute epic drama with thrills, scares, and even some nudity.
We spoke to seven people — players, coaches, and a broadcaster — involved in that point to get their story of one of the most insane points of ultimate ever played on this stage.
The Players On The Field
Ring of Fire
On The Lead Up To The Pull
Evan Lepler, ESPN Color Commentator
As I think back to what I probably was thinking around 12-12, it was probably mostly just the incredible magnitude and significance of that one point and how it’s kind of cruel that it’s possible for one point to define season and legacies and that sort of a thing.
And just, there was such an incredible atmosphere during that point and, certainly, the atmosphere was a little strange because of the fact that people were rooting for Ring, but rooting for Ring consisted of booing. So, the fact that they were encouraging all the boos from the sideline and clearly the crowd was rowdy and everyone was on their feet.
The way the game sort of started out daylight and then proceeded into the darkness under the lights sort of added little bit of mystique to it as this comeback was happening. You could feel it shifting and all of a sudden Ring had found this momentum.
Josh Markette, Ironside Offensive Handler
I think it’s fight-or-flight response, like a parasympathetic, physiological response. Your body is in this state of extreme alertness and shock. But your natural reaction is to focus up and get yourself out of it.
The wave of frustration is passed, it’s more about managing the panic and knowing that your season could end in the next 60 seconds. You’re trying to manage your own panic but also get a sense of: where is everybody else?
If we just handle this the way that we should, we can walk out of here no problem.
Jon Nethercutt, Ring of Fire Offensive Handler
I think the biggest thing I was thinking about was just kind of how awesome that moment was. I remember looking and half of the crowd was booing us as a cheer for us, which was kind of a weird gesture, but awesome, especially in our eyes. And I was thinking about how excited I was to watch the point to see our guys go out and play D like they had been in the second half.
Danny Clark, Ironside Offensive Cutter
I think our offense has had a tendency the last few years, when we get broken, we get broken multiple times in a row. And I don’t know why that is. Sometimes guys tighten up a bit. And sometimes its a series of unusual turnovers that seem to come all in a row.
On my mind was one: trying to keep the guys on the field settled down. Like, look we got this, we’re still playing the same game against the same guys.
Tristan Green, Ring of Fire Defensive Handler
At that point, you’re so engrossed in the moment, especially with everything leading up into that, that is just another point. And I’d been going in on the other D points already, so, alright, I’m going out there on another D point!
I remember Noah just taking a moment. He said, ‘Just think about what we’re doing right now. This is an incredible experience. It doesn’t matter what happens after it. That’s why we play ultimate.’
Ironside received the pull from Ring of Fire. The first major play of the game was an Alex Kapinos huck to Danny Clark that hung up a bit and allowed Ring to get double coverage from Matt Bode and Justin Allen into the play. Clark didn’t make the catch, but he called a foul that was upheld by the observers, giving Clark the disc on the goal line.
On The Huck & Upheld Foul Call
Josh McCarthy, Ironside Coach
When the huck went up, I liked it, but it hung. You like throwing to Danny deep and you like staying aggressive and not being tentative. Normally I would say if there’s an up for grabs disc, and there’s contact, its kinda like, too bad so sad offense. If you put up a 50/50, there’s gonna be contact.
And I didn’t know how the observer was gonna rule, I don’t think I was right there. It was tough in the moment to tell. I think, looking, with the benefit of replay, it looks pretty clear that Matt Bode is bodying up Danny, not just holding his position, but pushing up into him. I think it’s a pretty good call. It’s one that in the moment could go either way.
If the disc doesn’t hang a little bit, it’s an easy goal. I had a couple steps on Matt [Bode] at that point and it was about — just get to the spot. And Bode did everything he could to push his butt into me.
I thought I was fouled by both of them, both by Bode before I touched it and by Justin [Allen] after it.
When Kapinos threw it, I was excited. I was like, yes, this is the right situation. Even after he hung it up, I was like, I’m good here.
Mike DeNardis, Ring of Fire Coach
My thought was that he was in a pretty bad position to have to punch that in. Because he was in the corner and all the coverage was behind him. So I thought that if we could at least make the first look hard it was going to be hard for him to recover and get the disc off the line.
I thought the foul, personally, was 50/50 whether it was or wasn’t. But I was OK with where we were sitting as long as we could stop that first look.
That’s a nerve-wracking moment. There was kind of a debate on the sideline about whether it should be upheld or not. And that’s the way it goes in any elite game, unless it’s an egregious foul.
I think nervousness at that point started to settle in, maybe a little bit of tension.
It was a breaking point in the game. The next throw was probably either going to be a score or it was going to be a turn.
When the huck goes up, I don’t think it was the worst decision in the world, Danny was open, but the execution left something to be desired. This hanging disc — Danny’s great in the air — but you’re basically throwing into a double team.
I was basically like, ‘We did it again.’ I spent most of the second half trying to get guys not to huck it, not to make those decisions, and here we are doing it on double game point.
Once the foul call was upheld, I was thinking, this is the game, we’re gonna win it.
Clark checked the disc in on the goal line as the rest of the offense streaked down past him into the endzone. A few moments later, he attempted to throw a reset to Brian Garcia but threw it behind him right into the hands of Ring’s Tristan Green. Green took an immediate timeout.
On The Clark Turnover
I was looking for one particular cut and just got locked in on Brian. And Brian didn’t make the cut that I wanted him to make. It was an easy goal if he just cut to the break side, it was a backhand to breakside.
I was waiting for Brian to make that cut, and I still don’t know why he didn’t make that cut.
And it got to stall nine and I had to throw something I didn’t want to have to throw, and I missed it. It was a sinking feeling.
With no points left, a lot of noise from the sideline, you‘ve subbed in your line, you’ve called the play on offense on the pull play. There’s not a whole lot more the coach can do, or even the sideline, other than cheer and communicate. And even in that environment, I could hardly communicate anything. You’re eight yards off the line: the coach can hardly communicate anything. And its on the players at that point to execute.
We didn’t execute at all. We didn’t hustle into position, we were frantic, we didn’t get into a good set. And you know, the look to Brian was ok, but Danny completely misthrew it. I think he’d acknowledge that. He was open, you know, he was open on the dump cut, but it was so chaotic it may have been stall count getting high. I have no idea how high it was, but it must have been eight plus, and he had to get a throw off quick, and he just missed it.
And at that point, I’m like “What? Wow.” And then they called a timeout and you have to gain your composure and keep on fighting.
Well I’m glad [Tristan Green] called timeout, I think, just to subdue some of the craziness of what was happening. It was good for us to be able to set up our D and avoid the fast break.
But I’ve just gone from this sense of relief to this sense of fear that we’re not going to get out of this. I have confidence in our offensive defense, but at this point Ring was playing so well that you weren’t going to count on anything.
The first thing was excitement that it worked out in our favor. Even though it’s a little bit chaotic with people running up after a foul, it’s often easier to score in that situation than out of a normal endzone set.
The pressure wasn’t really on us at that point either, because they knew they had it all the way down in front of their endzone and they turned it over.
I think at that point we were forcing middle. And especially in a fast break situation, you have a lot of people running past you from the offensive perspective. Kind of a hectic situation.
I was on my man, but I left my man a little bit because it looked like he was heading back into the stack. And so I was able to poach off a little bit. And I turned around and I poached off at the right place at the right time. So the throw was there and I grabbed it and immediately called a timeout.
I think we had talked about it on the line and I knew that we still had timeouts left. We had been doing well with the fast break but with the energy of that point, we know this is such a huge point. We definitely didn’t have any kind of offense set up, so at that point, I knew if I was holding the disc, everybody would be running past me.
I think you could probably hear the incredulousness in my voice as I was shocked about what happened…It’s amazing in retrospect that they won the game despite an error that huge.
After the timeout, Ring started working it — tentatively — up the field. Eventually the disc found its way to Green in a power position on the forehand sideline. He put up a flick huck to Joey Cretella who went up for the disc against double coverage from Alex Kapinos and George Stubbs. Cretella called foul and Kapinos contested, but neither party opted to take it to the observer. The disc went back and remained in Ring’s possession.
On The Green Huck To Cretella
I came from the dump and got an up line on that and was in power position. And I looked up and Joey was at the back of the stack and made a step or two under to set up the deep cut. And it looked like he got the defender off balance and I just always throw it in that situation.
At that point, it was really reflex. That’s how we’d been practicing; that’s how we’d been playing.
So I put it up there — he made a really good play on it. I don’t think I saw the defender on the back side poaching off, so he was able to come make a play on it as well.
I think when the disc went up, I can honestly say that I wasn’t thinking anything at all. Not really that time stops, but you’re kind of frozen in the moment just watching to see what’s going to happen. You’re on your toes anticipating hoping a goal is going to happen. But either way it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster.
Obviously it was an incomplete huck. And Joey made the foul call. From the sidelines in the moment, it’s really hard to see what happened. I didn’t really have an opinion on the foul call. Joey — I respect him more than a lot of players. He doesn’t make a lot of calls and hardly any that aren’t valid.
It’s hard not to feel good about it going back, because it was such a close play. You’d almost prefer in that situation to keep possession of the disc with a contested foul rather than go to the observer and risk a turnover.
That was the one I was a little more disappointed in than Nutt’s because we have it on the line, we have an in-cut. All we have to do is possess it and instead we take a big throw to try to end it. I’ve been a part of too many of those games where you make a comeback and you try to huck to win, and it backfires.
It was a nice huck. Anytime a huck goes up, you’re thinking what’s going to happen? You’re just willing your guy to make a play, to do everything he can, which Kapinos did.
Kapinos didn’t touch [Cretella] until well after the disc goes past him. It was such a bad call. Kapinos was a foot and a half away from him. I can’t imagine what he was arguing.
On the play, Alex Kapinos broke his ankle. He had to be helped off the field by his teammates. Ironside, facing a defensive situation, subbed in the veteran, Mark Sherwood. Ring countered by subbing in Nethercutt for Green on the disc.
On The Substitutions
During all of the discussion going on, I was on the sideline with Mike D and all the guys. I turned over there and smiled and kind of laughed because it was just such an insane moment we were in.
It was kind of neat to have that break were we able to just step back and think, huh, that just happened!
I was completely fine with [being subbed out]. I was like, well now we’re in on offense.
My role on the team had always been D-line handler, so I was completely fine with it. Jokingly with Mike, I was like, ‘I took my shot, now Nutt gets to go in and take his shot.’
I remember talking to Josh McCarthy before Nationals last year and he couldn’t stop talking about Mark Sherwood and how big of a pickup he was and how he’s one of the top defenders in the world, so to add a guy like that so late in their season who had never played with them before was not something that a lot of teams would do, but for him it was a no brainer in just how [Sherwood] would have an impact.
The other thing I remember from rewatching that is the look on Tristan Green’s face when he got taken out and Nethercutt got put in. I think any competitor desperately wants to be on the field for that moment and it’s sort of an eye opening thing for a spectator and both the media to see, ’okay which guys are on the field, one point to go to the championship game at Nationals?’
And I don’t know if I would have predicted that Tristan Green would have been out there before, but he was out there and he played well, and all of a sudden he gets taken out in the middle of the intense point.
He first was not sure what was going on, and then he went to the sideline and sort of had a smile on his face. I think if I was taken out of the game in that situation, I would have been like, ‘Are you kidding me? I need to have the disc in my hands.’
I wasn’t necessarily prepared at that point to go onto the field. But Kapinos got injured, and even while Kapinos got injured, it still hadn’t crossed my mind that I might get subbed in. And eventually Mike yelled at me and told me to sub in for Tristan. And then I realized that I was going into double game point of semis with the disc in my hand.
Mark was such an unbelievable player for us. And there was really no doubt in my mind that he was going to be coming in in that moment, and he was right there already. And I just remember kind of yelling, “Sherwood, Sherwood”, and I hear this really calm voice like next to me, be like “I’m right here.”
It was very reassuring that he was ready to go and ready for that moment. And he was, and he was a valuable player for the rest of that point, making a crucial play a few moments later, but also being an incredibly steady offensive and defensive player for us.
Nethercutt checks the disc in and doesn’t wait long to take a shot to the endzone, putting up a big outside-in forehand trailing to the breakside looking for Cretella in the back left corner of the endzone. Sherwood, freshly subbed in, boxes out beautifully and forces Cretella to try to make a catch over his back. He can’t pull it down and Ironside takes back over on offense.
On The Nethercutt Huck And Sherwood Defensive Play
Originally, there was no play call. The plan was just to play. I noticed that Noah was in position for an inside break and that’s what I was thinking, try to hit that inside break.
I remember about 10 seconds before the disc was tapped in, Mike yelled at me and got my attention. And with all the noise in the stadium and everything going on it was kind of hard to hear the sideline.
All I could make out was, “look to Joey or throw it to Joey.” And I ask him again, “What did you say?” And he said it again, “Look to Joey!”
And I looked up and wasn’t exactly sure what space we were going to attack. And time was counting down, 3, 2, 1, the disc is checked in. It wasn’t until Joey was four steps into the cut before I could figure out what space he was going to go to.
And the pace of the elite club game is so fast that you don’t often have five steps to set up a throw. I had to try to rush it and put it into a tight window and Mark Sherwood — who comes up with big plays in big moments — made a great play and got the disc back for the Ironside O-line.
I think for the most part I was pretty disappointed with the shot. I think if, going into it, I was on the same page with Cretella and knew where he was going before he went to that space, that’s a throw I complete to Cretella without Sherwood even getting to it. That’s a shot I complete all the time: the away forehand to the break side.
I also think I was a little bit, rightfully or wrongfully, upset at Mike in that moment because it was a forced shot. In my mind, in that moment, it became not a suggestion, but a forced throw.
I talked to him after the game and all it was was a suggestion. But I think in that moment for me coming straight off the sideline it was hard for me to read that as a suggestion.
You never want to come in as a thrower and your first throw on double game point be a turnover.
[Sherwood] played that deep shot like such a veteran: the right amount of physicality and holding his ground. For a guy who doesn’t like the most strong physical in stature, to sort of hold his ground and box out…there was an incredible amount of contact in that play.
It would have been interesting if Cretella had come down with it if Sherwood would have called a foul. Because watching the replay over and over again, they were both sort of grappling with each other and the fact that neither made a call there shows that spirit didn’t totally dissolve in that last point, because there was certainly plenty of contact.
This play that Mark Sherwood makes is unbelievable. He’s playing the disc, but more playing the body. He gets his body in there.
Two times [Cretella] gets his hand on the disc and doesn’t catch it. I can’t believe he didn’t call a foul on this play where there was actually contact.
That was my call. That was off a stoppage. Joey had steps or was in a position that was in a perfect line that was one that Nutt loves to throw.
And basically all that had in that situation was that Joey had to cut straight down the field. But if you watch it, there were two problems in that situation. One was that Joey didn’t cut right away and the other was that Nutt pumpfaked.
It was just something that he’s done so many times that I was like, alright that’s a great look off of a stopped disc.
The ensuing Ironside possession is a drawn out affair with lots of stoppages and very nervy Ironside offensive play. The first big moment, though, comes fairly early on, when Garcia tries to hit Markette on an up-line cut but makes a poor throw. As Markette went to make a play towards the disc, he got hit hard by Nethercutt, who was poaching into the space. There was a contested foul that was upheld by the observer.
On The Nethercutt & Markette Collision
I make this up-the-line cut, which was a nice cut. I was very open and it’s an advantageous spot to get the disc. It’s hard to get that much separation on a handler defender.
If Brian throws it to my chest, it’s an easy completion.
What I remember thinking was I don’t know if I’m going to catch this frisbee. I don’t even know if I’m going to get a hand on it.
But I think it was the right foul call — he completely cleans me out, he blindsides me. From my perspective, I probably wouldn’t have caught the frisbee. But we don’t really know because he cleans me out.
That’s what I’m arguing to the observer: I think I could have caught it. And I think I could have.
I forgot who I was guarding, but they cleared out. When I looked back at the disc, I saw [Brian Garcia] trapped on the sideline and Cricket setting up for an upline.
Gut instinct was to turn around and try to get involved with that. I thought that the obvious thing in that moment was not to lead Cricket out to space. Some part of me thought that [Brian] was going to see me poaching and not lead it out in front. So my angle of attack was pretty much straight to the point where I anticipated Cricket was going to catch the disc.
Assuming it was thrown to where I thought it was going to be thrown, I don’t think there’s any question that I was going to beat Cricket to the disc. But instead [Brian] threw it much further up the line than I thought.
And in that moment, we collided. And Cricket called a foul. I basically completely blindsided him, so I totally get the foul.
But my argument with Cricket and the observer at the time was that the foul didn’t affect the outcome of the play. My basic reasoning was that it was very hard for me to believe that he would have been able to make a play on the throw that [Brian] threw. It would have been really hard to change directions.
It’s hard for the observer to assume that he couldn’t lay out and make that play. It’s a tough call and it’s really one that probably could have gone either way and there clearly was contact. That’s exactly the type of call that you don’t want to decide the game and who goes to the finals and who goes home, but it’s obviously tough in that situation because you have to make a call.
Markette takes over at the spot of the foul and Ironside continues possession. Eventually Markette throws a short reset on an incut from Brandon Malecek as Nethercutt lays out on defense. Malecek appeared to catch it and then lose control. It was a bang-bang play: did Malecek complete the catch? Did Nethercutt get the D? On the play, Nethercutt was also cleated hard in the orbital and was down for a long time. Eventually, Green reentered the game on an injury substitution (after earlier being subbed out for Nethercutt).
On The Nethercutt Layout & Injury
I remember being matched up on Muffin in that front of the stack isolation spot. When he started going backwards, I let him go across my body and forced him backfield instead of upfield like I had been. When I looked up to the disc, I remember thinking I didn’t expect them to throw the disc. I was just trying to apply pressure to the backfield and give somebody else a chance to make a play.
So the disc went out of the thrower’s hands and I was surprised but I instinctually laid out. And a strip was called. I still don’t think it was strip; I don’t think rotation was stopped. But simultaneously I got kicked in the head and it was all a blur.
And then the pain kicked in and I realized I had caught a cleat straight to the eyebrow. And it was a bad situation because I couldn’t really see as blood was clouding things up.
Ben Dieter, who’s a doctor, came over and asked me how I was doing as we waited for the trainer. And I told him how the pain was and then I said, “If he calls a foul or a strip, I contest. It was clean.”
At the time, I was thinking, an observer is going to uphold this because it looked close enough to be a strip. It looked like Muffin had it. It was very, very close, obviously, but I was pretty sure that an observer was going to uphold the foul call.
The thing I was thinking more was: is this guy OK?
When he turned over and his eye was bulging like that and full of blood, that was pretty nuts. The face swells up a lot so it probably looked worse than it actually was. But it just added more and more drama to an already insane point.
I thought about Snell at that time and, once again, were in a situation where part of our season is…I just thought about another one of our players getting injured in a key moment in our season and it being really deflating for our team.
At the time, it obviously looked a lot worse than it was. It looked like he had been kicked directly in his eye.
I thought that was a clean D and I was a little unhappy that was called a foul. But that is what it is. There’s plenty of things that you can do and you can’t blame observers for making the calls that they make. I thought it was the wrong call but it didn’t really affect where we were at that point in time.
That play was just another one of the multitude of plays in the game where both teams were exerting 100% effort.
Initially, when he laid out and got a piece of the disc, it was like, here’s another one! There were so many close calls on this point alone.
It wasn’t until after when he was still on the ground that we realized how hurt he had gotten. Scary moment at that point from being a good friend of Nutt’s, seeing him go down.
During the injury stoppage, a female streaker ran out onto the field and off into the darkness. It was never shown on the broadcast, nor was it mentioned by the broadcast team. You can, however, hear the crowd going wild as Nethercutt is lying on the ground with blood coming out of his eye.
On The Streaker
I think it was a major test of my focus. Broadcasting is a lot about multi-tasking and thinking of two things at once or doing three things at once or listening to someone in your ear while continuing to speak and, if I remember correctly, we were showing a highlight of that play, a replay of it, and obviously I’m looking at the monitor and I see this thing going across the field, but we didn’t have it on the camera at all, we didn’t show it at all, yet you could hear it.
I feel like in that moment I was trying to embrace the Bill Simmons-y quote “Don’t get fired.” So I think if it had been on camera, there probably would have been no way to not mention it, but I think that since it was never on camera…
I think it was something that…that’s why you go to the event in person. You see more in person than you do on TV. I don’t think the producer or anyone said anything about it. I think Wayne and I just kind of looked at each other and were laughing and I put my finger on my cough button to mute my mic in that one instance.
I remember months later after the game talking with Nethercutt about it and he was like, ‘Yeah there was a streaker on the field in that point too as I was injured and in pain on the ground .’ I remember that and that’s…that’s ultimate. It’s the old vintage ultimate world of unpredictability and you never know what’s going to happen, colliding with the gradual more corporate ultimate programming that you’re trying to send into the more mainstream. I’m not sure if you promised a streaker on the field in every game, would that boost ratings? I probably would boost ratings, but…it was nuts.
Ironside is still struggling offensively after play resumes, but eventually George Stubbs makes an excellent throw to break side space for Markette, who catches and quickly attacks the end zone with an inside flick. But the throw is not far enough inside and Shane Sisco takes it away for Ring.
On The Markette Turnover
This is the throw we need to hit if we’re going to win the game. Stubbs made the most valuable throw of the point. When I made the cut, I remember thinking, if Stubbsy can hit me here, it’s going to be incredibly dangerous in the game.
And I think this is where I’m the best in the game. Just give me one guy, one cut, and I’m going to end it.
I like my flick, I like that little inside flick. I think if I throw that correctly, the game is over. But I threw it behind Will; I threw it significantly behind Will. I was feeling pretty crappy right there. Not only are we in a position again to lose, but now it’s on my shoulders.
I think I can make that throw. I think I can make it nine times out of 10. I think the nerves just got to me.
We had already had two stoppage turnovers. I said, let’s just play. We’re backed up in our end zone, but let’s just go.
It was very similar to the previous Ironside turnover on the point when Clark miscommunicated, except that this was less miscommunication and more just trying to jam it in when it wasn’t available. The look on his face after the play sort of said it all. That’s a throw that haunts an individual for a long, long time. Probably not quite as long because they won the game, but if they lose that game and Ring scores on the ensuing possession after that turnover…that’s…I don’t want to say it’s like the ball going through Bill Buckner’s legs, but…
I say that mostly because if you had to rank the top 10 people in the world who you’d want the disc in their hands in that situation, Cricket’s probably on that list. Someone who’s so sure-handed, who so typically makes the right decisions, it was just the fact that in that gigantic moment for him to throw the disc away…I mean give Shane Sisco credit too because he was right there.
At that point, it had gone into the realm of the unbelievable. From the Kapinos injury, to the Nethercutt injury, to the streaker, to multiple calls, to the multiple execution errors that were so shocking…I don’t know exactly when I said it on the point, but it…it had gone beyond just a simple ultimate point in that situation and it had arrived into this realm of just, wow. And you kind of knew you were watching history at that point, you kind of got a sense that Ultiworld would do an oral history about that point of that game. That’s how significant it had become over the course of those 15 to 20 minutes.
I think it was probably Ring’s D leading up to that throw that forced that. We had had a lot of trouble moving the disc. And we couldn’t really get anything up field. And I don’t think if they had forced us to make so many throws in a row before that, Cricket wouldn’t have thrown that.
George threw an around lofty high backhand to Cricket. I was like, “This is it. This is our offense. Cricket catching it, then handing it off in the endzone.”
Will’s timing was a little late and the mark got there, and Cricket couldn’t throw the continue back hand so he looked to throw the inside flick. By that time the window was way closed and the ring defender just one hand snagged it. Will had no play on it whatsoever.
I could not believe it. Cricket is a superstar, and he is super steady. He doesn’t turn the disc over. Yet, he does. Very rarely, but he’s great in big moments. And people make mistakes. Even great great players. I’m sure that’s a throw he wishes he had back, for sure.
Just a few passes later, Ring gave it back to Ironside. Noah Saul tried to hit Justin Allen on an in cut, but threw it behind him as Clark zoomed in to get the run-through catch block.
On The Clark Block
I was guarding Justin. I was just backing him the whole time. My thought process the whole time was, ‘Don’t let him go deep.’ And he made an under cut and he was open. But the throw was late and behind him.
So I was able to just run through. I’d like to say it was good defense by me, but it wasn’t really. I gave him the under. It was just a poor decision and poor execution on the throw there.
I think it was just a misthrow. I don’t think there’s anything to it than just being a badly thrown pass.
Once this point started moving, I don’t think there was any kind of mental gas on our part. It was all fundamental errors. Tristan’s forehand, Nutt’s forehand, Noah’s forehand: those are all fundamental errors. Maybe they’re a little nervous off the stoppages, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the mental game.
Ironside is back with the disc in their attacking half. Malecek gets it and throws a bullet backhand up the gut to George Stubbs, who is wide open in the front of the endzone. He drops it — a complete doink. But Clark, behind Stubbs in the end zone, lays out to make the game-winning catch for Ironside.
On The Final Play
There wasn’t enough time for me to think about it anything. It was very much a bang-bang kind of thing. See the throw go through, and then see it bounce off.
After all that, for it to end that way. That was a surprise. It was definitely a surreal moment.
I’m frantically telling Muffin to throw me the frisbee. I’m telling him to dump it, there’s nothing upfield.
I don’t know what he saw, but clearly there was a window there to George. When Georgie doinks that disc, you’re just thinking wow, here we go again.
But before you can really react, there’s Danny holding the disc. The weight of the world is off of your shoulders. That was one of the best feelings of relief that I’ve ever had.
All I could do is collapse there on Danny and kind of give him a hug. We just breathed this huge sigh of relief that it was finally over.
The rest of the game for me was an emotional rollercoaster. Because my eye obviously wasn’t feeling the best. I was with the trainer behind the team tent as she tried to put a butterfly stitch onto my eye.
Ben Dieter was still over where I was, helping out. And at my request, he was narrating the game to me. So I was getting bits and pieces of limited narration from Dieter as the trainer was working on my eye.
So I could hear the crowd and Dieter. So I could kind of guess at what was happening on the field but I couldn’t know for sure.
I remember hearing a big sound and thinking they had scored, but actually we had gotten a turnover. And then there was an ‘awww’ sound — and Dieter made that too — and he told me we had turned it over. And then the only other big sound I remembered was when they finally did score. But I have no visual memory — I only had the sound to guess at what was happening on the field.
I didn’t know what we were going to do to get it in, but I literally think, and I never asked Muffin, but I think at some point he was like, “I’m throwing this into the endzone.” You know, he’s going to throw it into the endzone. We’re not going to turn it over trying to do something else — I’m just going to throw it in there, to George, you know and you know if we don’t score, at least we had our final chance.
And it was just, “Oh no! Oh my god! He caught it!” It was insane. Just insane.
I think everyone was sort of holding their breath in that moment and their heart skipped a beat when it bounced off George’s hands in the end zone. Here you have George Stubbs, National player of the year in college, the captain of the gold-medal winning Team USA, the heart and soul of Ironside and the disc goes through his hands.
When Danny Clark caught the disc and George sort of crawled on top of him, I can only imagine George in that moment, because if you’ve played sports you’ve been bailed out by a teammate before…When you make a mistake someone bails you out — in whatever sport it might be — that sincere appreciation and relief and disbelief was all sort of encapsulated by George’s body language in the aftermath of that.
On The Post Game Experience
To be honest, as soon as that play was over, I was in a state of shock for about 30-45 minutes. Not only for how long that point was, but also for what happened in the last third of the game.
Afterwards, we all went to a field nearby and all just sort of sat there and stared at each other.
At that point, it was still kind of the high of being in that situation. That was the most incredible game of ultimate I had ever been a part of. That point was incredible. The crowd was into, there was incredible intensity. Ring hadn’t been playing at that level in any of the other games at Nationals.
It was just a big experience.
I was obviously pretty upset. Devastated might be too strong of a word but that kind of generalizes the feeling. Especially in that moment when you quickly reflect on the fact that you had the disc in your hands with a chance to win the game and you turned it over. And you follow that up with the fact that half I just missed two Ds to get it back and half that I was cheated.
And that’s not to say that Cricket and Muffin cheated. Those were both legitimate calls. I would have made the same calls in that situation. I think they’re just as right about those two situations as I am.
But it’s hard not to think in that moment that you forced two turnovers but weren’t allowed to keep them.
I’ve been part of some pretty tremendous losses. So it wasn’t super shocking or feel like the pit of my stomach dropped out like some of the other losses I’ve been part of. So my immediate takeaway was that we fought our asses off to win the game and, unfortunately, luck didn’t work out in our favor in bunch of situations in that point.
That was my hot take, even when they finished it: ces’t la vie, man.