The AUDL's newest champion is the third team to win an undefeated title.
August 12, 2019 by Chris McGlynn in News, Recap with 0 comments
SAN JOSE, CA — Under the warm sun in San Jose, two AUDL heavyweights met with a championship on the line. New York entered undefeated to match up against a Dallas team looking to keep its title as the only team to finish an AUDL season with a perfect record. After three quarters of exchanging blows, the Empire pulled away to capture its first AUDL title with a 26-22 victory.
Saturday’s semifinals, particularly New York’s against Indianapolis, were greatly affected by the wind. With calmer conditions on Sunday, both teams looked sharp on offense right off the bat. MVP candidate Ben Jagt powered the Empire offense in the early going, authoring a chapter in the brief history of the AUDL with his performance. Jagt scored or assisted on six of seven Empire goals in the first quarter.
Not to be outdone, Dallas’ Dalton Smith continued his impressive Championship Weekend, acting as the maestro of the Roughneck offense. His throw-and-go ability, a craft he honed in his time at Texas A&M, rivaled Dylan Freechild at points in this contest; he completed 56 of 58 passes, tallying four goals and two assists. The offensive showcase on both sides led to a 7-7 tie through one quarter. It took until the second for the defenses to truly impact the game. New York held and then earned the first break of the contest as Jack Williams found Grant Lindsley out of a timeout. Lindsley turned in a timeless performance with a four-assist, five-goal stat line complete with 789 yards of total yardage.
The lifespan of New York’s cushion was short, as Dallas broke back to tie the game at 10-10. Carson Wilder ran through the game mostly unchecked by the New York defense, racking up six assists, four goals and a team-high 394 yards receiving. Abe Coffin made his presence felt again as well, tossing five assists and a team-high 436 yards throwing. The young Roughnecks needed to step up following the departure of star Jay Froude with a leg injury late in the second quarter. Both teams traded into halftime, even at 13-13.
Dallas opted to utilize the same double-teaming tactic they threw at San Diego the day before, but did not have an answer for Harper Garvey. There might not be a more game-breaking throw in the AUDL right now than a massive Garvey hammer. He used it over and over to reset the New York offense and send the Dallas double team scrambling to recover. As a result, Garvey finished with a game-high seven assists and 497 yards throwing. He guided the New York offense to an 18-18 scoreline before the Empire’s Josh Alorro intercepted a Smith scoober to set up the first break of the second half. Now needing a break to knot things back up, the pressure fell on the Roughnecks defense. In contrast to Garvey though, it was a game to forget for Dillon Larberg. He cost the Dallas defense a number of break opportunities, with three turnovers on just nine throws.
The tide truly began to shift in New York’s favor with a buzzer beater pulled in by Jeff Babbitt over a crowd to end the third quarter. Garvey made it count to start the fourth by finding a wide open Connor Kline with another awe-inspiring hammer to open a two-goal lead. There were chances for the Roughnecks to climb back into the contest, but another ill-advised look from Larberg set up a wild second-effort layout goal from Jagt to compound the Dallas missed opportunity. The mistakes continued as Connor Olson turned it over on the goal line looking for Kevin Richardson. Marques Brownlee gave New York an insurmountable lead after reeling in an incredible possession-saving grab, leading to another break.
Suddenly up 24-21, Empire coach Bryan Jones switched gears. He threw a zone look at the Roughnecks meant to completely slow down the offensive flow. Dallas eventually found a way through it, but the new look forced a turnover and the slower pace chewed up clock. After his otherworldly start, Jagt went relatively quiet, but had enough left in the tank to chase down one last deep huck. He finished with six goals, five assists. Perhaps the most mind-boggling stat though was his five throws the entire game. Every pass Jagt threw was for an assist. Brownlee scoobered to Albert Alarcon for the cherry on top as New York clinched the first championship in franchise history.
New York closed out its undefeated season in comfortable fashion, and while Dallas will have positives to reflect on, it was a tough way to finish the season. The opportunities were there for the Roughnecks to keep the game close in the final quarter of action. Instead, Wes Nemec and the rest of his coaching staff will head into a second straight offseason looking to fine tune a team that came up just short of a title.
For the Empire, this was the expectation all season long, but this team delivered in the biggest spot. They showed they could handle the pressure that comes with being the favorite. As long as this current core sticks together, this could be the beginning of an AUDL dynasty, something the league has never seen before.1 Only the San Jose Spiders have won back-to-back titles, giving New York a new milestone to chase. For now though, the Empire will bask in the glory of a well earned championship.
Although perhaps Beau Kittredge is an individual dynasty unto himself: this title brings his AUDL championship count to five, earned with four different teams, including with the Roughnecks. ↩