Reliving a classic double game point national final.
September 8, 2020 by Theo Wan in Interview with 0 comments
For the better part of two decades, few would deny that Vancouver Furious George and Toronto GOAT have been the best men’s club teams in Canada. Yet while both have achieved significant success south of the border competing against the best squads in America during the USAU club season, they haven’t always focused much attention on competition back on home soil. Each has won their fair share of national titles over their illustrious careers — Furious eleven, GOAT four — but many years they don’t even sign up to compete in the Canadian series. Yet every four years, on the eve of the next WUGC, these two juggernauts reignite a rivalry at the Canadian Ultimate Championships to earn the right to serve as the selection committee for Team Canada.
Heading into 2019, Furious and GOAT had met in the final each of the four previous WUGC qualification years; the West Coast program held a 3-1 advantage, but the Torontans owned the most recent victory. As the CUC descended on Edmonton last summer, it felt inevitable that the two Canadian titans would once again meet in the final. Both teams cruised through pool play and the first two rounds of the bracket, neither one giving up double digits to any opponent en route to the final. While leaders of both teams acknowledged that they were committed to creating more of a national team structure to represent the country for WUGC 2020, bragging rights were still on the line for longtime rivals. The stage was set for another epic duel.
The showdown did not disappoint. Last summer’s CUC Open final was a back-and-forth affair where neither team was able to pull away with a lead and the star players from both sides turned in big play after big play on the way to a classic finish.
Just a couple weeks beyond the anniversary of this game, we spoke to a handful of players, coaches, and a commentator who took part to pull together an oral history of the fantastic double game point final.
Furious George defeated GOAT in the CUC finals in 2003, 2007, and 2011. In 2011, GOAT held a 13-11 lead in the latter stages of the game before Furious George staged a comeback to win 14-13. Heading into 2015, Furious George had never lost a game at CUC in their history dating all the way back to their first championship in 1995. That game ended in GOAT’s favor with a scoober from Jeff Lindquist sealing the deal.
For much of this history, there was a fair bit of animosity between the two teams. But with the emergence of a new generation of players and an agreement to work together more closely on matters related to the national team, there was a decidedly different feel to the 2019 final.
Cam Harris [GOAT #91, 2009-Present]: In 2011, I felt there was a lot of animosity between the teams. It felt like everything was hotly contested. There were some cheap shots in there in my opinion. The game against Furious in 2019 was one of the most hard-fought but spirited games I’ve ever been a part of.
Matt Berezan [Head Coach Furious George 2018-Present, Player 2011- 2015]: No matter who won, it sounded like we wanted to make it more like a Team Canada structure more than a club representing a country kind of structure. The meaning of the rivalry changed a bit. However, we still wanted that crown to be the best team in Canada.
Morgan Hibbert [Furious George #8 2005-Present, GOAT 2014 (USAU Series)]: The rivalry becomes instead of facing against this person you don’t know, it ends up being like a rivalry with your brother. The intensity on the field is no different. When you play against your brother, you still want to beat your brother. The difference is as soon as the game is over, you then do something together.
Mark Lloyd [GOAT #89 2008-2016, 2018-2019]: I guess in terms of the rivalry changing, I remember back to the 2011 final in Ottawa. For me, that was such a brutal game in terms of communication between the two teams. It was really poor. After Furious won that year and was going to represent Canada, I was not going to play on that team. I just didn’t like the way the relationship was. You want to spend your time and compete with people you’re going to go all out for.
So I would say that’s the way the relationship has changed. While there is still that rivalry, I think it’s a healthy rivalry now. It’s probably a better thing on the whole for Canadian ultimate to not have your top two teams hate each other.
The stage is set. The 2019 Canadian Ultimate Championships suffered through a fall-like windy power pool Friday. The conditions for this final included slippery fields and a slight crosswind. Both teams were ready to take home the crown as the best Open team in Canada. Undefeated heading into the final, both teams handily won their semifinal game by the same score 15-6 but knew the final would be a much stiffer test.
Clayton Howlett [Play-by-Play Commentator]: I thought it was going to be close. I knew just from their last meeting at the time four years ago and remember sitting in the stands seeing [Furious] dejected [when they lost]. I knew Furious was going to come into the game with a real purpose. At the same time, I felt GOAT was coming in to say we are better than you. I really felt GOAT had this notion, “You are not the only show in Canada. We beat you, and we’re going to beat you again. This is our time.” I felt both teams had this mentality of, “This belongs to us. Go away.”
JJ Edwards [GOAT #11 2017-Present]: I wouldn’t say I was that nervous. I have played in some big games at some various world championships that I’ve been a lot more nervous at. I think I really eased into the game because we played so early. We were the first of the two games. When we started, no one was really there in the stands. The feeling of it was very calm.
Troë Weston [Assistant Coach Furious George: 2018-2019]: We really emphasize to the guys to stay in the moment. We really talk a lot about the performance curve and finding the optimal amount of stress and anxiety and emotional level where you can really perform your best. I think the mindfulness really helps everyone bring their focus in.
GOAT Breaks First
GOAT and Furious both have smooth, no-turn holds to start the game. GOAT goes up 3-1 for the first break of the game after veteran star Mark Lloyd gets a layout block to earn the first turnover of the final. Lloyd throws the assist to JJ Edwards for the first break of the game.
Lloyd: I saw Tim Tsang make the [upline] cut, and I poached a little bit to see if the throw was going to float or trail farther ahead of him and whether I could have made a play on that. By my little bit of a poach, I created enough of a gap where Tim thought he could get the huck deep on me, which I also was baiting a little bit. I don’t think I should be necessarily baiting that much on Tim — he’s a great thrower. Paul Mensah did enough with his mark to not have it be bladey. He made it a bit flatter for me, so I could make a play on it. I think it’s one of those ones, if the receiver had attacked it a bit earlier, he probably would have gotten it. Thankfully, I was able to get one, and there was a camera there which is always nice.
Berezan: You never like to give up a break that early in a game. Over the past few years, we have had enough situations like that where we had gone down early, where we were trying to get our legs going and come out with a bit of a slow start. We have been able to come back from that in the past. We were not worried. We were not panicking, knowing there’s still an hour and 20 minutes to go.
GOAT Breaks Again
GOAT takes advantage of some Furious miscues including Malcolm Bryson slipping on an open swing pass. They take a 5-2 lead off another Mark Lloyd assist. Furious calls a timeout. The pressure can be felt by the Furious side as GOAT jumps out to an early two-break lead. GOAT is assessed its first technical for sideline encroachment.
Hibbert: I thought we were at the precipice at 5-2, and it really was starting to feel like “this is it. This is the biggest point of the game. Somehow this is happening.” Confidence-wise, this was either going to be a booster for GOAT and they would beat the tar out of us or we were going to get back in the game and make a battle of it. We had to do it at that moment. We could not slip any further because I think we would have spiraled. We had a lot of pretty young kids, and I didn’t know if we were going to be able to recover from more of a deficit. I remember specifically thinking, “we have to do something now, or we’re not going to win this game.”
Sachin Raina [GOAT Head Coach 2017-Present, Player 2013-2016]: There’s still a lot of game to go. Frisbee is so weird, it’s so easy to feel comfortable. If they come back and score to make it 5-3 which they are expected to do and we go out and get broken which could very much happen then all of a sudden it’s 5-4. You’re now receiving with either a tired O line or your D line out there. All of a sudden they have the advantage to make it 5-5, and just like that your comfortable lead is gone.
Hibbert Leads Furious on their Own Break Run to Tie up the Game
After a hold from Furious, 14-year veteran Morgan Hibbert gets two layout blocks on the same point to help grab the momentum back for Furious. Patrick Baylis drops the first of many hammers in this game to Robbie Brennan. Furious follows it up with another break to make it 5-5 with Hibbert on the receiving end. GOAT, sensing a momentum shift, calls a time out and the game is now back on serve.
Harris: Morgan went kind of old school Megatron and got some big Ds — on me included. I am still a little bit haunted about that one. I thought I could have got up sooner and got that. I didn’t think his 48-year-old legs would be able to carry him that fast.1
Hibbert: I know how Izzy [Isaiah Masek-Kelly of GOAT] wants to huck — not just that he wants to huck, but also the moments when he wants to do it and how he wants to set it up. The way it all laid out, I realized, “Okay, percentage-wise, I think Izzy is throwing this.” Luckily for me, it sat for a bit which gave me enough time to catch up. I knew I just had to go up early and if I went up early, I was going to get it.
I took off before the throw, and he threw it to Carroll, and I was able to come from the weak side. I don’t think Carroll knew I was coming because Carroll left me a bit of a window to come across and get it. That one is a dangerous one because I left Cam, and the thing is when you’re covering Cam, you don’t want to poach off of Cam that much. It is a gamble.
The moment I was talking about, we were down 5-3 and I just felt like if we don’t do something here we are in trouble. The situation warranted the risk, and I was lucky it worked out because it doesn’t always.
Furious Takes the Lead for the First Time
Fred Lam makes a huge defensive play on Andrew Carroll, taking away a sure score for GOAT. Patrick Baylis gets his second assist of the first half after dialing up a backhand to Brayden Gee, who then flips it to Hugh Knapp for the break and the first lead of the game for Furious George. GOAT elects not to call another timeout and decides to play through the first lead for Furious in this game.
Peter Yu [Furious George #24 2013-2015, 2017-Present]: I think we were all high on energy especially because they were all blocks. When you get blocks and takeaways, you know you’re playing well. You know you’re doing all the right things like Fred, that was a fantastic D, he had been playing well all half. He got this touch and tip and pressured [Andrew Carroll] to catch it out of bounds. I thought that was ridiculous.
Harris: One of the things Sachin has been talking about all year and the past few years as a coach is a mental Venn diagram where there are things that matter and things that you can control. We only want to focus on that overlap in the middle. The fact they have caught a couple 50-50 discs, we can’t really control that, but what we can do is make better decisions. That’s what we need to focus on.
GOAT Takes Half with Two Straight
Toronto gets a smooth, no-turn hold to make it 7-7. After two turnovers from Furious, Lloyd throws his third assist of the half with a hammer for the GOAT break and the lead at the break. The game is on serve as both teams look forward to the second half.
Lloyd: I had thrown a turnover earlier that point. I think they turned it on the next throw. I ran and picked up the disc and, being completely honest, I was only thinking end zone. Carroll cut upline for the forehand, and everyone on Furious in the endzone pinched in that way. I had two receivers on the hammer side and was throwing it for Toly, but I knew I had two options if I missed the throw a little bit. There was so much space over there that it was a pretty easy decision.
Edwards: Taking half was pretty big. You’re not more confident that you got the lead, it’s more so you put a stop to the bleeding. You stopped their run, and you picked up a bit of momentum going into half.
Both teams look to make adjustments for the second half.
Raina: Their game plan was clear. Don’t let Cam huck. What we were trying to do was figure out different ways to get Cam the disc and other guys who can get involved. We were talking about not getting trapped on the line as much.
Defensively, try to clamp down on a couple guys. I know there’s a couple of breakdowns. Early in the game for example, Brendo [Wong of Furious] comes early, gets a disc, and throws a smooth 30-40 yd “huck” to Ty Barbieri, and Mikey [Mackenzie of GOAT] gets beat deep. I still remember now thinking that was a violation of our gameplan, which is don’t let Ty go deep, back Ty, and make him come under. He was a tough guy to stop that game whether he knows it or not.
Berezan: It was clear by that point our offense was not clicking. It was a combination of a few things there. GOAT was doing a really good job with some strategic switches and poaches to kind of break up our flow and take away our deep game which is one of our biggest strengths as a team. We were having a hard time making adjustments to it. I think, in the moment, some of our players who were less experienced and a bit newer were struggling a bit to get into their groove. I wouldn’t say necessarily that somebody had a particularly bad game, but I think a lot of guys really struggled to get their game going and get some momentum built.
I think it was a combination of those 3 things where guys were maybe feeling the pressure of the moment a little bit, me not having done in retrospect the kind of preparation that was required, and GOAT employing smart, well-matched defense against us that really made us struggle on the offensive end.
GOAT Gets the First Break out of Half
Both teams start the second half off with two turnover-free holds apiece. GOAT leads 10-9 before punching in the first break of the second half. Toronto’s JJ Edwards gets his second goal of the game off a Toly Vasilyev around backhand to push GOAT’s lead to two.
Edwards: Toly is one of those players who has this crazy vision of the field, which I love. It’s such a crazy throw because I’m behind all the other players and, to see that, you have to have such an awareness.
A Will Vu Foot Block Leads to a Furious Break and a Tie Game
After a Furious hold to get back within one at 11-10, commentator Clayton Howlett notifies the audience at home that GOAT has received its second technical of the game for swearing. On the ensuing point, Will Vu gets a foot block on Thomson McKnight which gives Furious a short field to work with. Baylis hammers to Gee for a Furious break and his second assist off of a hammer. Gee shows some enthusiasm and completely tacos the disc in his celebration.
Adrian Yearwood [GOAT #81 2008-Present]: I have been playing with Thomson for 13 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Thomson get hand blocked in a game. It was not a death knell for sure, but super surprising. Big ups to Will. It was a great block.
Brayden Gee [Furious George #9 2017-Present]: I really don’t know what came over me. Edge down spikes were a big no-no for me back then, haha. For some reason when I caught that, I knew it was big, I knew it was huge. I was like, “Okay we have another shot” and edged spiked the dang out of that.
GOAT Breaks at a Critical Moment to Make the Score 14-12
Vancouver’s Kevin Underhill — who was sick with the flu during this game and played limited points in the final — is out on offense as the team commits two turnovers. Underhill pops up an around throw that Toly Vasilyev gobbles up on defense. Toly then immediately throws a leading backhand out for Iain Mackenzie, who flips it to his brother for the critical break late in the game. Furious calls a time out.
Howlett: Furious, I feel like you are in trouble. That might be them sealing the deal. You might not be able to catch them.
Hibbert: The bench is nervous for sure, but the nice thing about Furious’s history is that it has a habit of giving you belief and strength. This situation is one we had been in before even though most of the guys themselves hadn’t been in that situation before. It is a really interesting psychological thing because [young players on the team] haven’t necessarily experienced that situation but because the team [Furious] has, they have this belief we can.
Ty Barbieri [Furious George #5 2016-Present]: The pressure is definitely amping up. I feel like when you’re on the field, you just let everything go. You’re not thinking what the score is when the pull comes up, but you just know you need to get the job done.
A Third Technical Foul for GOAT Gives Furious a Short Field to Work With
A technical foul gets called on GOAT for swearing after the Mike Mackenzie goal and team celebration. Since it is GOAT’s third technical, Furious is granted a field advantage which is a huge momentum killer to GOAT’s previous break. Ty Barbieri rises up and throws a cheeky high-release backhand to get a key hold for Furious.
Raina: We’re excited. Our guys are close to each other. No one is going into a crowd or a microphone or a camera and swearing. The guys are talking to each other. The observer decides to get into our space, I should imprint myself on this game and say, “Hey, I heard the F-word.” It’s not a slur. It’s not attacking anybody. He’s talking to his friends. It’s not the 1920s, we’re not in church.
Berezan: I think this was an interesting turning point in the game. You see GOAT celebrating. They are cheering. They are going nuts. They just had a huge point to put us on the ropes. That’s part of what led them to their technical for swearing.
The messaging I had in our timeout was very leveled. It was probably the calmest timeout I had all season. To their credit, the guys were focused. I didn’t have to pull in anybody’s attention. They were focused and ready to listen.
The Hand Block Heard All over Canada
After completing their hold, Furious goes out on defense needing a break to send it to double game point. Furious does not cross over any O-line players, leaving Ultimate Canada’s 2019 Male Athlete of the Year Andre Gailits on the bench.
Peter Yu makes a flying hand block on GOAT’s Adrian Yearwood in the most memorable play of the game. Brayden Gee catches another hammer for the Furious break, setting up a next-point-wins scenario.
Yu: It was a lucky instance here. He sees something, and he doesn’t fake. Adrian has a really nasty shoulder fake. It makes you jump. He made me jump all game on it where I wanted to go block that backhand. He would give me that shimmy, and I would go flying. The whole time I’m just squaring him up and being smaller than him. I’m pretty much straight up the whole time because I have to be straight up if I want to stop the throw.
I remember seeing the windup. I just bail out on it. It was kind of a surreal feeling. It hit me so hard as he is hucking it into my hand. The sound of the block echoed in my head when I hit it. I saw it go down. I hit it straight into the ground, and I look up and Hugh’s there and cellys right in front of him.
Harris: I was calling for it. I had a lot of steps. I don’t usually call for it when I strike deep unless I strongly feel I have a good play at it. I was calling for it, and maybe it was a distraction. Adrian has perfect awareness of the field, and he knows where everyone is. In hindsight, it might not have been necessary, and maybe it was to our detriment.
Yearwood: [Harris] had made such a big jab step in, he was going right down the line, and I was going to put it right into the middle of the field and curl it into him. It was a perfect situation. But this is a lesson for everybody: you got to fake before you throw, which I did not.
It was a really amazing play by Peter. He took such a big gamble and laid out. Maybe I telegraphed, and maybe he thought he was able to do that. It definitely ended up being an awesome play. He absolutely tacoed the disc in half, so I had to give it up to him afterwards. I take [ultimate] seriously, but I am not taking it so seriously that I can’t congratulate somebody for making a big play. That’s always frustrated me about people that take it so seriously that they can’t enjoy it for what it is, even if it’s not going well for them. I love the game. I love big plays, and if I’m involved in a big play either way then I’m going to give props to whoever it is.
Double Game Point Alert
Furious George comes out on defense with: Hugh Knapp, Morgan Hibbert, Andrew Gailits (crossing over from O), Brayden Gee, Peter Yu, Patrick Baylis, and Robbie Brennan.
GOAT comes out on offense with: Thomson McKnight, Cam Harris, Mark Lloyd (crossing over from D), Jay Boychuk, Nathan Hirst, Isaiah Masek-Kelly, and Andrew Carroll.
GOAT is receiving and is hoping to repeat the magic from 2015 when they handed Furious George their first-ever loss at a CUC.
Raina: This may come with not having an assistant coach, but I make a mistake here. I listened to the veterans after I asked them, “Hey guys, do we want to call a timeout?” If the guys don’t want it, I don’t want to argue with my vets, but I should have said, “Screw you guys, I’m calling the timeout.”
Part of it is like it was such a short point. Furious had just come sprinting down, and we just jogged out to our spots and turned it over in two throws. They are going to be more fatigued than we are, so there may be an advantage to us not calling a timeout. If we get in any trouble, burn it.
Berezan: The basic call was [matchup defense] but earlier in the game, we had been calling specific poach looks that we wanted to either stop the first throw or to promote the disc in a less advantageous space on the field. At that point in the game, it was one of those things where we didn’t have to call it in a super structured way. The guys had been playing that style the whole game. I called the line, and they know their matchups.
A Contested Deep Shot Results with No Foul Call from Mark Lloyd
Harris catches the disc and sees a streaking Mark Lloyd and GOAT has two of their most veteran players trying to connect for the win. Harris airs it out to Lloyd with steps on Hibbert, who starts off in a bad position. Hibbert goes up early which causes Lloyd to do the same, resulting in the disc going over both of their heads.
Harris: I got the under. I looked for Mark very early in the stall count. He had steps on Morgan. I floated the throw more than I wanted to. I think it got a bit of a gust and popped up. When you’re throwing to Mark Lloyd, you have a big window for error, so I still had faith he was going to get there. I think a lot of what Morgan had done earlier in the game in dominating the air and dominating the deep space was in a bit of our minds at that time. That’s the Morgan Hibbert effect.
Lloyd: Nate went to receive the pull and kind of bobbled it a little bit. Instead of going to Thomson, he goes to Cam, and I think because it was very unscripted, confusion set in on their defense. I took off. Cam threw it.
Morgan made contact with me, but my thought is maybe I jumped too early. The only call I could have made was me planning on landing and going for a second effort because he went through me a bit. At the same time, it’s one of those instances I think I should have made the play. I’m not going to lean on a pretty chintzy foul call that might have been a foul, but I didn’t deserve it. It’s not a call I’m going to make.
Hibbert: Where I was set up on Mark, I had the mindset that Cam was not going to get it in a good hucking position. I can then overplay Mark on the under and really stifle their offense.
[Lloyd] actually attacked the disc way too early. He needed to trail left to follow the disc. I knew where he was, but I didn’t see him. I’m timing my jump, and all of a sudden he is there. We collide. I’m purposely jumping early just to hopefully make you miss the disc. This isn’t where you are supposed to be trying to catch it. You are supposed to be trying to catch it there.
All I know is we hit, and no one touched the frisbee. That’s all I know at that point. We hit the ground and we sit there. I’m looking at him. I’m not saying anything, and he’s looking at me.
Mark is like, “You fouled the crap out of me,” and I was like, “Yeah okay.” Then he said something along the lines of, “But I’m not going to call a foul because I missed it.” I thought about it a lot. If he had called a foul, we probably would have chatted it out. I probably would have asked someone who was nearby just for their perspective if they thought it was catchable.
That was my big thing. No doubt I hit you, but was it catchable or did you screw up and jump too early. If Mark said it was catchable, and someone else said it was catchable, then I wouldn’t have contested it. If he does not jump at all, he catches that disc and he scores because I missed it. He did jump too early and I don’t think he could catch it. I think he knows that and that’s why he didn’t call it. I think it all played out correctly in the end.
Furious Breaks for the Win
Furious works the disc up after the turnover and has trouble in the reset space. In a high stall count, Hugh Knapp launches a flick to Andre Gailits who snags the disc out of the air with his left hand and flips it to Gee for the win. Furious wins and is crowned the best team in Canada!
Gee: When the frisbee goes up, you should go. You never know what’s going to happen. When I’m running down there, I’m literally thinking in my head, “if he tips it, where is it going to go? I’m going to be the garbage guy.” Of course, Dre makes the catch with his left hand. I do the button hook, and yell at Dre, “I’m right here!” He flips it, and then it’s pure elation.
Yu: I’m kind of celebrating and looking for where Dre is and everyone is surrounding him. It was kind of his Lebron James moment where he sheds off an entire team, two guys on him, and ends the entire game. All I could think about is look at Dre and then imprint that in my memory. This is what it’s like to play with the greatest player on earth.
Furious rushes the field in jubilation as GOAT is left ruing what happened. Ty Barbieri gets named MVP after finishing with 2 assists and 3 goals in the final. Furious defender Brayden Gee also finished with 1 assist and 3 goals. GOAT was led by Mark Lloyd’s 3 assists and 1 goal and Thomson McKnight’s 4 assists.
Lloyd: I personally felt I let people down. I was in the situation I wanted to be in, the disc going to me to win on universe point. I wasn’t able to make the play and definitely not feeling great. At the same time, I have been playing long enough that you get good wins and bad losses. Tomorrow still comes regardless. You just kind of find your perspective whether that be talking to family, friends, significant others whatever it is. It’s sort of how I handle those things. You find your perspective outside of ultimate and move on.
Weston: I think the first thing I did was I looked over at Matt [Berezan] to see the expression on his face. He put so much heart and work into the team that seeing that expression on him was my first thought. Seeing him run on the field, I book it onto the field with everyone else.
Barbieri: I want to give a big shoutout to my teammates and coaches. Being able to train and learn from them has really helped me develop as a player. Being named finals MVP was a surreal feeling — especially after such an epic final match with so many amazing players. To me, receiving the toaster [Finals MVP award] is truly an honor. Growing up as a junior, I dreamed of one day receiving it and having my name next to so many other Canadian legends.
Harris: There is no yelling at each other. It was very supportive. I think we all recognized we had a great team, and that we are a great team regardless of the outcome. I don’t think we played our best. I think that hit hard at a lot of people that we didn’t play to our potential when we needed it to be there. I think that’s a learning opportunity for the young guys and the old guys too.
It’s understanding what you need to do to get your mind and body ready to be at 100% and to give it your best game. To play to your absolute potential is a tough skill to learn and develop because you get so few opportunities at it.
Berezan: I was ecstatic. It was pretty cathartic. I was part of the 2015 team that lost to GOAT — the one and only loss by Furious at Canadian nationals. Even though I stepped away from the team for a few years in between that, that still felt like a continuation of that time where I was building for four years to that game and that moment.
Full sarcasm here from Cam. He told me how much respect he has for Morgan and the work he puts in. ↩