Strong Second Half Sends FlameThrowers Past Radicals To Final

San Francisco's sharp offense sends them into the title game.

San Francisco FlameThrowers at the 2017 AUDL Championship Weekend. Photo: FT Facebook.

MONTREAL — In the opening game of the AUDL’s Championship Weekend, San Francisco’s precise offense proved too much for the Madison defense to overcome. It was only the third time in 2017 that San Francisco was held to under 25 goals, but it was enough to beat Madison 23-19 in front of 1750 fans at Claude Robillard Stadium

With spectators still filing into the stands in Montreal, the game got off to an ugly start. The FlameThrowers defense was applying pressure to the Radicals offense, poaching in the lane while keeping a player deep for help over the top. It was working: Madison was turning it over. The problem was that San Francisco was too. Eventually, after three turns from the offensive line, Madison subbed in its D-line out of a timeout to finally get the hold. Over four minutes into the game, it was 1-0.

While the first point was sloppy, it would not dictate the pace of the game. Madison scored an early break to take a 3-1 lead after a Jordan Marcy throwaway. The first quarter presented both teams multiple break opportunities, but only one was converted. The first quarter ended with Madison leading 3-2.

The story of the second quarter was more missed opportunities for both teams. A Sterling Knoche run-through block on Grant Lindsley didn’t end up mattering after San Francisco got the disc back. A great block by Peter Graffy on a huck to Marcelo Sanchez led only to Graffy getting stalled shortly thereafter.

But as much as Madison struggled to convert a few break chances in the first half, San Francisco couldn’t get anything going at all after the turn. The FlameThrowers defense got the disc eight times on five different points in the first half and converted not a single one.

“I thought we played better than them in the first half,” said Madison head coach Tim DeByl. “We had more opportunities to cash in breaks and we just didn’t capitalize.”

At halftime, the score was locked at eight apiece. Both teams left breaks on the table, but it would prove to cost Madison the most. In many ways, the FlameThrowers were lucky to be tied. “I think the turning point was the end of the second quarter: we hadn’t converted any of our breaks and we were tied 8-8,” said San Francisco head coach Ryo Kawaoka. “We knew we were making good adjustments on offense and that our defense would make great plays in the second half.”

The first point out of the third quarter was emblematic of much of the rest of the game. Madison’s offense worked the disc patiently against San Francisco. Yards were not easy to come by. If given enough chances, the FlameThrowers would eventually get the turnover, and a Sam Kanner layout D did just that. San Francisco scored to take its first lead and 1:47 had already come off the clock.

Another Sterling Knoche block would lead to the Radicals second break of the game to tie it at 13, but, other than an end of quarter prayer, that would be the last time the FlameThrowers would turn over the disc all game.

San Francisco’s defense looked transformed. In the second half, they stole the disc five times and converted all five breaks.

“I want to give credit to guys like Antoine Davis, Kevin Cocks, and Greg Cohen who were the guys that stepped up and made Madison just look to their dumps,” Kawaoka said.

“I don’t think their defense was the problem,” countered DeByl. “We just had too many silly turnovers.”

Meanwhile, the San Francisco offense couldn’t be stopped. Madison tried a couple different approaches, even transitioning from one-on-one defense to zone when San Francisco was at Madison’s end zone line. Madison slowed San Francisco down at times, occasionally generating good chances at a turnover. But after San Francisco took the lead at 14-13, it never happened.

Joel Schlachet and the San Francisco offense was clicking. In the fourth quarter alone, Schlachet had three goals and one assist. “They played really clean ultimate in the second half and there wasn’t a whole lot our defense could do,” said DeByl.

Entering the championship tomorrow, the FlameThrowers strengths are clear. Their offense does a fantastic job of maintaining possession even on long points. Madison forced San Francisco to complete more passes than it is accustomed to, but the end result was the same. Going into the game, everyone knew that San Francisco could score quickly. The FlameThrowers demonstrated that even against great defense, they could score during long points as well.

Another strength was their downfield defense. San Francisco made life difficult for Madison’s cutters, and that pressure led to high stall throws from the Radicals. For San Francisco to win the Championship, the key might be their D-line offense. If they repeat their second half performance, they will be tough to beat. But if San Francisco needs to rely on its offense to punch in breaks after timeout calls, the FlameThrowers may struggle to keep up in the title game.

  1. Nathan Jesson

    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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