What a wild week!
June 29, 2018 by Charlie Eisenhood, Chris McGlynn, Tanner Jurek and Alex Rubin in News, Opinion with 0 comments
Throughout this AUDL season, Ultiworld will be publishing a weekly Throwaround, a chance for you to catch up on the amazing, funny, and interesting moments that you might have missed from the weekend’s games.
The drama intensifies in the AUDL as scores get settled, playoff races keep heating up, and road wins become vital. Here’s a look at an especially crazy Week 13.
Pittsburgh 29-28 Minnesota
Atlanta 30-20 Raleigh
Toronto 28-21 DC
Indianapolis 40-20 Detroit
San Diego 23-22 Seattle
Los Angeles 27-18 San Jose
Montreal 23-22 New York
Austin 24-23 Nashville
Chicago 31-27 Detroit
Dallas 27-16 Nashville
Los Angeles 25-24 San Francisco
Philadelphia 27-19 Montreal
DC 30-29 Ottawa
AUDL South Playoff Weirdness
Dallas has locked up the #1 seed in the South, Raleigh is in a great position to get the #2 seed (though they have not yet clinched), and Atlanta and Austin are battling it out for the final playoff spot. So why is there so much drama? I put together a story about the strange incentives facing Raleigh and Dallas in these final weeks.
LA Sweeps Bay Area Doubleheader To Clinch AUDL West
The Los Angeles Aviators clinched first place in the AUDL West by soundly beating the San Jose Spiders 27-18 on Saturday night in the Stadium Game of the Week and stealing a buzzer beater to knock down the San Francisco Flamethrowers 25-24 on Sunday.
LA began against San Jose with two breaks before pulling away for good in the third quarter. Though it won’t show up in the stat sheet, the key to the game was containing the Spiders’ every-other thrower Sonny Zaccaro. Eric Lissner and Nate Ransom combined to limit Zaccaro to just one assist and 30 completions. Those two stood out, but the Aviators got contributions from all over their roster, with 16 different goal scorers.
After a short drive across the bay, the Aviators were back in action against San Francisco on Sunday. It was a back and forth affair in which neither team led by more than three at any point. Featuring three lead changes in the 4th quarter, the game came down to the final throw, with Sean McDougall skying a pack for the game and division-clinching goal. The Aviators relied on their top players more in the second game of the back-to-back, especially Chris Mazur, returning to the field after a few weeks off taking care of an injured leg, and Tim Beatty. Each threw six assists.
Beatty was nearly the scapegoat of the game, miscommunicating with his reset and throwing a short-field turn with about 30 seconds left. The Aviators were able to block Marcelo Sanchez’s shot to the endzone before working the disc up the field in the final six seconds to score, saving Beatty the embarrassment.
The Flamethrowers were led by Eli Kerns, who shouldered a big load on offense throwing 10 assists on 74/75 passing. San Francisco’s other Revolver stars — Antoine Davis (3 assists, 5 goals), Marcelo Sanchez (5A, 2G), and Lior Givol (2A, 6G) — were their usually productive selves, but Los Angeles used its depth to keep their legs fresh late in the game, and was able to make more plays in the 4th quarter (which you can watch here via drone!) to sneak the division clinching win.
The Aviators are obviously pleased with their 2-0 weekend and got an added boost in the return of one of their stars. Eli Friedman returned to the lineup for the first time in a few weeks, joining Tom Doi on the D-line. Though they started the season on offense, the pair now bolster the D-line, seeking blocks and running the offense after the turn. Their skill improves LA’s ability to score a break without multi-turn points and spreads some talent around, making all three of their lines capable of scoring. Additionally, Mark Elbogen, who has been slowly recovering from a torn ACL, played both games of a back-to-back for the first time this season. While his statistical impact was not huge this weekend, he is a key cog for LA’s offense as a downfield threat.
With home field in the West division playoff game clinched, the Aviators can spend the next few weeks fine-tuning their sets and preparing for a winner-take-all game against, most likely, one of these Bay Area teams for the right to attend Championship Weekend.
With each team losing to LA on the weekend, the playoff standings remain essentially unchanged. San Francisco remains a half-game ahead of San Jose, with the tiebreaker in hand, and thus an inside track on the other playoff spot.
Pittsburgh Shocks Minnesota
The previously 1-10 Pittsburgh Thunderbirds came into Minnesota and hurt the Wind Chill’s chances of not just having a shot at the #1 seed in the Midwest but to even make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh came to play on Saturday. Timely offense and a nothing to lose attitude caught the Wind Chill off guard. The addition of Noah Robinson was big for the Thunderbirds: he could quite possibly be the missing piece for them going into the 2019 season. If Pittsburgh is able to add some of the big names they lost and keep Robinson in the fold, Pittsburgh will be right back in the playoffs again.
Despite losing a lot of talent in the offseason, Pittsburgh still has some playmakers. Max Sheppard carried the offense with big hammers and difficult throws: he was a +13 for the game. Noah Robinson caught six goals despite Minnesota being keyed in on stopping him. Sam VanDusen, Jonathan Mast, Owen Watt, and Jimmy Towle all played big roles as well.
The first quarter started close: it was obvious right away that Pittsburgh wasn’t going to roll over. Neither team could really get a stop. Both offenses ran efficiently and the quarter ended with Minnesota up a break. Minnesota was running an offensive line that included six former University of Minnesota Grey Duck players and Michael Jordan.
The second quarter ending 14-13 as the defenses still couldn’t create any separation. Max Sheppard was running Pittsburgh’s offense, while Ryan Osgar and Josh Klane were making easy work of Pittsburgh’s defense.
Minnesota jumped out to a 19-15 lead to start the second half and, for a moment, it looked like Pittsburgh had turned back into the one-win team that had walked into the National Sports Center. Minnesota had found some chemistry on the defensive line: they had been trying combinations all game and finally seemed to unearth one that worked. But Pittsburgh stopped the bleeding to make the score 19-16 before trading points to end the third quarter trailing 21-17.
Minnesota got a quick hold to start the fourth quarter and make the score 22-17, but in a blink the lead vanished. Mistakes from Minnesota and new defensive looks from Pittsburgh tightened Minnesota’s offense. Suddenly the score was 22-21. The pressure was on. Minnesota’s early game efficiency was gone and Pittsburgh was taking shots and hitting them. With the score 25-23, Pittsburgh got a hold to make the score 25-24 with just over a minute left in the game.
All Minnesota had to do was run the clock out and win. It was fairly obvious Minnesota had no intention of taking a shot downfield, and that strategy came back to haunt them: a bad throw gave Pittsburgh the disc near Minnesota’s end zone. A Pittsburgh timeout let them reset and strategize before tying that game at 25 with just a few seconds left on the clock.
In overtime, it was all Max Sheppard and Pittsburgh’s offense. Pittsburgh received to start the overtime and scored to get their first lead of the game. Pittsburgh and Minnesota traded points for the rest of overtime. The theme of very little defense continued. A Minnesota pass to Jordan from Osgar tied the game at 28 with less than a minute remaining. If the Wind Chill could get a stop, they’d receive to start the sudden death overtime.
It wasn’t to be. Who other than Max Sheppard beat his defender to the front right cone to give the Thunderbirds the lead with four seconds on the clock. The Thunderbirds defense trapped the Wind Chill, who weren’t even able to get a shot up, to end the game.
The Thunderbirds played their best game of the season, and Minnesota couldn’t figure out how to stop it. The Thunderbirds moved to 2-10 and the Wind Chill moved to 6-4.
The Wind Chill will have to bounce back against the Chicago Wildfire at home on Saturday if they want to remain in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot in the Midwest. The Wildfire are one game behind the Wind Chill in the playoff race. Both teams will play Madison and Indianapolis and play each other twice in the four remaining games.
Play of the Year?
Surely you’ve seen this by now, but just in case you haven’t…Austin’s Kyle Henke completes the craziest greatest I think I’ve ever seen:
Spiders Add to Trick Play History
To start the second quarter against the Aviators, the San Jose Spiders threw an “onside pull,” dropping the disc a few yards from their own goal line, forcing the Los Angeles Aviators to race up to the disc and initiate their offense against a trapping double team. Tim Beatty picked up the disc and immediately looked for a reset. Finding the double team difficult to beat, he threw a hammer backwards that sailed over his handler’s head, a turnover which led San Jose to a quick break. Color commentator Chuck Kindred appreciated the defensive strategy from San Jose, but offered that a thumber might have been a better throw for Beatty to get around the defense. Maybe the only way to beat a trick play is with another trick.
It isn’t a professional sport if there isn’t a gatorade shower. The Los Angeles Aviators celebrated clinching the AUDL West:
Just Babbitt Things
These are the moments where it is best to just sit back and enjoy the incredible player Jeff Babbitt is on defense:
Growlers Avenge Last Week’s Loss
In a late season game, the San Diego Growlers, losers of five in a row before this week, avenged their loss last week and beat the Seattle Cascades on the road 23-22 to maintain an outside shot at getting into the playoffs. At a minimum, the Growlers will need to beat San Francisco this week and get some help from San Jose in the loss column to have a shot.
Mark Burton had seven assists on 68 completions for the Cascades, helping Seattle maintain a slight advantage throughout the game. Until San Diego’s Sam Fontaine curled an away shot just inside the end zone line to Tim Okita with the last throw of the game, Seattle never trailed. Watch the final point (and hear some authentic sideline chatter):
Montreal Split Roadtrip
The Royal entered the weekend in second place in the East. A split decision on a two-game road trip keeps Montreal in that same spot after a wild couple of games.
For their first stop, the Royal visited the Empire in New York, a game that featured a thrilling finish in a 23-22 win for Montreal.
New York cruised most of the way with a three to four goal lead. Ben Jagt put on a show with five assists, two goals, and two blocks. The former Minnesota star continues to be a key player of the Empire’s success, leading the team with 51 points through the team’s nine games. Marques Brownlee made his presence known as well. He tallied five goals, constantly stretching the defense downfield and controlling much of the game for the defense with deep pulls all night long. It seemed like New York would close out the matchup for an important win for its playoff chances when Montreal flipped a switch.
Trailing 22-19 with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Royal scored four unanswered goals and drained the clock to lock up a huge comeback win. Steve Bonneau and Miguel Goderre paced the offense all game long, hooking up with Quentin Bonnaud early and often. Bonneau finished with 7 assists, a goal, two blocks, and a crazy +9 rating for a game that was decided by a single point. Bonnaud scored six goals and added three assists. Goderre tallied three goals and three assists, completing 52/52 passes.
Montreal took its first lead of the game with 3:30 to play in the fourth quarter. The ensuing point spanned the entirety of the time remaining with some major fireworks and neither team scoring. It seemed like the Royal had scored another goal to solidify its lead with just under two minutes to go. The play came all the way back, though, after Montreal called a timeout before the scoring play.
After the restart, Morgan Hibbert seemed to score again for the Royal, but was ruled short of the goal line and then called for a stall after arguing with the official.
New York’s next possession saw the intensity boil over. A Montreal player closed down on a Mike Drost in-cut fast and fell over Drost after he bid. As he went over, his knee hit the back of Drost’s head, causing an injury timeout. New York’s Matt Auletta then rushed onto the field clearly upset with the Montreal player. An official intervened and ejected Auletta from the game. New York was marched back to its goal line but kept the disc after the timeout and worked the disc into the redzone. The Empire called a timeout of its own with 22 seconds remaining. Remember: this is still the same point! New York’s set play bounced off Jagt’s outstretched hands, ending the hopes of forcing overtime and completing a crazy comeback for the Royal.
Following the late game heroics in New York, Montreal failed to show up against Philadelphia, losing 27-19. Philly has been difficult to beat at home all year long with a 4-1-1 record at A.A. Garthwaite Field. The Phoenix broke twice to open the game and never looked back. Montreal was clearly tired after its late-night thriller in New York while Philadelphia seemed fresh and motivated.
The Phoenix took a 14-8 lead into halftime, dominated possession, and gave the Royal few chances to climb back into the game. Matt Esser set the tone for the Philly defense with four blocks in the game while creating constant pressure on Montreal’s downfield shots. Sean Mott continued to show off his versatility, taking over as the distributor with six assists.
Mott has emerged a true superstar with 77 points in the team’s 11 games.
The Phoenix led by 10 heading into the final minutes of the game before taking its foot off the gas. Montreal scored a couple of meaningless goals late to close the gap. The win for Philly completes a season sweep of Montreal and leaves the team just half a game back of D.C. for the final playoff spot.
Top 10 Plays
The weekly Top 10 plays don’t usually make the Throwaround, but these are seriously nice:
D.C. Holding Onto Playoff Spot
With Montreal in the States, D.C. traveled to Canada for matchups with Toronto and Ottawa. The Breeze fell to the Rush 28-21 in another show of strength for the league leaders. Hugh Knapp had a big game after spending much of the season as a role player. The Toronto rookie scored six goals and tossed three assists, nearly doubling his point total for the season. Some more familiar faces put in top performances as well. Connor Armstrong had four assists and four goals, while Mark Lloyd tallied four blocks, three goals, and an assist. Former Maryland man Ryan Swift played well for D.C. with four assists and completing 52/53 passes. Delrico Johnson game Toronto trouble on defense in the losing effort with seven goals.
It has proved difficult to win the second game of a back-to-back weekend across the AUDL. D.C. managed to accomplish the rare feat, though, in a nail-biter against Ottawa, 30-29, a season high scoring total for the Breeze.
The offensive explosion was led by Georgetown star Christian Boxley and Truck Stop mainstay Jeff Wodatch, as the pair each had seven goals. Matt Kerrigan did his part as well with eight assists.
D.C. got off to a bit of a sluggish start. Some early turnovers gave Ottawa the chances it needed to take an early lead. The Outlaws held a two-goal advantage at the end of the first quarter and stretched it to three at halftime, even with the Breeze scoring at the buzzer to make it 15-12. Ottawa relied heavily on the trio of Derek Alexander, Karl Loiseau, and Alec Aresnault.
Alexander continued to be the maestro for the Outlaws, dishing out seven more assists to lead the team. Arsenault took his offensive game to a different level with nine goals, a pair of assists, and a +12 rating. Loiseau did a little bit of everything with seven goals and five assists.
A contested third quarter finished with D.C. taking the lead with just seconds remaining. Ottawa managed to tie the game at 27, but it was the Breeze who made a run to close the game. D.C. scored three straight and then hung on as Ottawa nabbed two late goals.
With the win, D.C. moves to 6-5-1 on the season. With Toronto having already locked up the division, the Breeze are in a fight for one of the final two playoff spots. Montreal, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York all sit within two games of each other.
The Breeze and Phoenix face off on Saturday while the Empire and Royal meet for the third straight week on Sunday. This upcoming slate of games will either clean up the playoff picture or ensure the madness continues into the final weekend of AUDL action.
Home team in bold. ↩