Seattle Stuns Home-Town Madison In Instant Classic

An unforgettable evening in Madison.

The Madison Radicals v. Seattle Cascades at Breese Stevens Field.
The Madison Radicals v. Seattle Cascades at Breese Stevens Field.

MADISON — In front of a crowd of nearly 3,000, the largest in AUDL history, the Madison Radicals and Seattle Cascades put on possibly the best show that professional ultimate has ever seen.

A game that seemed secure for the Radicals midway through the third quarter suddenly turned into a back and forth battle marked by spectacular highlights. Buzzer-beating full field hucks, wild layout blocks, and a high pressure invocation of the Integrity Rule, this game had it all. In the end, Seattle only led for one point, but it was the only one that mattered, as the Cascades pulled off a 26-25 comeback victory in front of a hostile crowd on Saturday evening.

The tone that Madison set in the first half was clear. The Radicals offense had only three turnovers through the first two quarters, one of which came from a last second huck to close out the first. Madison wasn’t scoring quickly, but they were using the width of the field to score and looking comfortable doing it. Dave Wiseman was all over the field for the Radicals, finishing with three goals and three assists in the first half.

Conversely, Seattle often found themselves pressing early in the game. The Cascades put up questionable hammers and floating hucks to receivers going against double coverage by the time the disc arrived. Seattle fell into an early hole, 6-3. In the second quarter, Seattle cleaned it up and the two teams traded back and forth without any turns, but the Cascades weren’t able to close the gap.

At the end of the first half, Madison led 15-10, and the Cascades had yet to register a break. Husayn Carnegie, a standout D-line player for Seattle, noticed the difference. “In the first half it was clear we were a good club team playing in the AUDL,” he said, “and Madison was an AUDL team.”

Thoughts of a Seattle comeback seemed to evaporate at the start of the second half. Madison opened with a hold and looked completely in control. Their offense did a great job of using the whole field, often throwing leading passes to the opposite side for scores. With Madison leading 19-13, Seattle quickly threw the disc away on offense, and the Radicals capitalized immediately, taking a 20-13 lead, their largest of the game and nearly a bulletproof 2nd half advantage in the AUDL.

Despite Madison’s momentum, something changed after that play. “It wasn’t a strategy adjustment, it was an energy adjustment,” said Seattle’s Mario O’Brien. In the first half, Seattle had applied plenty of defensive pressure, but often poached off of the break side to make it happen. In the second half they tightened up and put themselves in better position to make big plays.

After a huck to Nick Stuart for the easy hold, the Madison offense started making simple mistakes that they had entirely avoided in the first half.

A drop led to the first Seattle break. The next point, Madison had another unforced error, turfing the disc near their own endzone. Then the Radicals overthrew a huck, and after a timeout call by Seattle, Mark Burton came down with a huck for the third consecutive Cascades break. “More than anything our O-line just had some simple mental mistakes and our offense lost its confidence,” said Madison head coach Tim DeByl.

The last point of the third quarter, with Madison up 21-18, was another turning point. The Radicals had worked the disc down the field and were on the end zone line. A big poach block by Carnegie gave Seattle the disc with about eight seconds left in the quarter and 80 yards to go. Will Chen caught a swing pass and threw it the full distance for the buzzer-beating score. The crowd was stunned. “That was the biggest momentum swing,” said DeByl. “Even if we didn’t score, and just stopped them from scoring, that would have been huge.”

The Radicals did start the final frame with a break to try to reclaim some of the momentum. The crowd was loud whenever Madison was on defense, roaring whenever Seattle turned the disc. Though the crowd stayed in the game, Seattle did too, coming back with a break of their own to narrow the Madison lead to just one at 23-22.

Up one in the fourth quarter, the Madison offense no longer looked in control, but the Radicals still had the lead and the disc. Colin Camp had possession on the Seattle end zone line, unmarked by the Seattle defense, which was scrambling to ensure no one was left open in the end zone. Camp was improperly called for a stall, and he immediately protested that there was no mark, so the stall couldn’t be initiated. The referees gathered but upheld the call, only to be overturned by Seattle, who invoked the Integrity Rule. The Cascades picked up the disc and dropped it, returning possession to Madison. The Radicals once again found Dave Wiseman in the end zone for the last of his five goals.

Seattle tied the game for the first time since 0-0 two points later when their offense came in after a timeout to complete the break. The home crowd, sensing the team’s weakness, roared the loudest it had all game when Kevin Brown put up a big huck to Pat Shriwise, who dished to Colin Camp to put Madison back on top. After another Seattle hold, the Radicals were legitimately stalled for the first time all game, leading to a Seattle break and their first lead of the game at 26-25.

Seattle’s defense had a breakdown on the following play, leaving Andrew Meshnick wide open for a big gainer and an easy continuation look into the endzone. He sent a midrange flick to Thomas Coolidge and it looked like tie game. But Seattle’s Donnie Clark had other ideas. He made the biggest play of the game — and maybe the AUDL season: a fingertip, full extension layout block. “Laying out I didn’t know if I was going to get it or not,” he said. “It was a total leap of faith. And luckily it worked out.”

Clark had to come off the field with an injury, but Seattle had the disc and the lead with just 25 seconds left. The Cascades had the chance to run the clock out on offense, but Matt Rehder threw a huck too far that gave the Radicals the disc back with 17 seconds on the clock. DeByl tried to get a timeout, but the referees never acknowledged him. “I ran onto the field trying to get the refs attention to call a timeout, but after a few throws I had to come off because I didn’t want a penalty called on me,” he said.

The referees said that no timeout was called because none of them saw DeByl call the timeout. Meanwhile, while DeByl was still on the field, the Radicals started their offense, getting the disc to the center of the field. With nine seconds left — plenty of time to complete multiple throws — Kevin Brown sent an ill-advised huck to Kevin Pettit-Scantling in the end zone with Seattle defenders surrounding him. The disc was knocked to the ground as time expired and Seattle had won the game.

The crowd was stunned; it was difficult to believe the game was over. These fans hadn’t seen the Radicals lose at home since 2013 and just watched them give away a seven goal, second half lead in the biggest game of the season. Just a few minutes earlier, the Radicals seemed destined to play for the Championship against the Dallas Roughnecks in front of the home crowd. Instead, their season was over.

The Cascades go on to face the Dallas Roughnecks in the AUDL Championship game on Sunday at 12 PM Central.

  1. Nathan Jesson
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    Nathan Jesson is Ultiworld's lead AUDL reporter. He has been covering the league since 2013. You can reach him on Twitter @semiproultimate.

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