AUDL Buzzer Beater: Aviators Continue Improbable Run [AUDL Playoff Round 1, 2023]

LA and Austin Shock the League, Indy and DC Advance

Los Angeles Aviators’ Lukas Ambrose throws a greatest in LA’s upset win over the Colorado Summit in round one of the 2023 AUDL playoffs. Photo: AUDL.

In what might be the biggest upset in the post-COVID lockdown seasons, the Los Angeles Aviators flew to Colorado and topped the Summit. Down south, the Austin Sol won the first playoff game in franchise history after coming close to upsetting Carolina last season. Indianapolis was easily able to take down a depleted Chicago team, and DC handled Boston like a team who has been there before. This round sets up our division championships in just under two weeks’ time: DC at New York, Indianapolis at Minnesota, Austin at Atlanta, and LA at Salt Lake.

Aviators Pull Out The Upset

“I’m looking forward to becoming the sharpest thorn in their side for the next six years. They don’t know what’s coming.” – Pawel Janas, April 6, 2023

When the Colorado native and Los Angeles handler said those words, he must have been imagining a night like Saturday’s. The underdog LA Aviators who had never beaten the Colorado Summit flew to Denver, played the best game of their season, and recorded one of the biggest upsets in modern AUDL history.

If you just watch the beginning of the game, you wouldn’t think there was too much to see. Colorado looked to pull away early with a three goal first quarter run, but the Aviators got a jolt of energy from Lukas Ambrose’s impressive greatest and follow-up sky for a score. This set up LA’s first break of the game and breathed life into an Aviators squad desperate for proof it could hang with a team that will probably have a higher talent rating whenever the AUDL video game comes out.

The Aviators won this game at the margins. Just in the first quarter, plays like Ambrose’s greatest, Sean McDougall’s box out to grab the buzzer beater, and Mitchell Steiner’s heads up double block found every little advantage that LA could muster. The Aviators played with focus and determination and most importantly, belief. They scored last in every quarter but the fourth (when they already had a two goal lead) and put together three separate three-goal runs. The Aviators played a complete game start to finish while the Summit looked a bit off.

Playing without Jonathan Nethercutt knocks down the ceiling for the Summit attack, and the O-line suffered at times from a lack of chemistry, with Danny Landesman and Calvin Stoughton reintegrated into the mix after playing just two and four games respectively this season. Of course, these players have years of experience playing together in college and in the club division, but when facing a team with a bit more dedication and practice together, the team that does the little things right and doesn’t need to figure as much out on the fly has a noticeable advantage.

Down by two at the end of the game, Colorado took about one minute to score with just 1:20 left on the clock. A team that had played together more frequently might have been able to move the disc quicker and leave more time for a comeback, but with just a handful of throws needed to run out the clock, the Aviators did all that was needed to clinch an unlikely but well-deserved win.

The Aviators now advance to play Salt Lake for the West Championship. The Shred are sure to be favored, but the last time LA won a playoff game they also made it to Championship Weekend. They weren’t expected to be too close to the Summit before the game, so they certainly won’t count themselves out of this one either. With all systems humming at the right time, the Aviators might just be ready to take off and soar into the final four.

Mailbag

Have a question about the AUDL? Send it in to [email protected] with AUDL Mailbag in the subject line. You can also message me on Twitter at @ StallSeven

We saw two upsets in the first round, how many are we getting in the divisional championships? – Anonymous on Twitter

I think the most realistic chances are the two teams who were favored in the previous round. While LA and Austin each have a shot against Salt Lake and Atlanta respectively, I think Indy and DC have the best chance to upset their opponents this weekend. That says more about the matchups than the pure strength of each team. The Breeze are among the league’s elite and have challenged New York better than any other opponent over the past two seasons. If anyone is going to topple the Evil Empire, the Breeze have the best shot. On the other hand, Minnesota is the weakest of the regular season division winners and Indianapolis is talented enough to take them down. The Wind Chill do have the carrot of potentially playing in their home metro area for Championship Weekend dangling in front of them and I expect they’ll follow through and find their way to their first-ever Championship Weekend. So in short, I think there are two possible upsets and the one I think is most likely is DC over New York, but I wouldn’t bet on any of them happening.

News and Notes

  • Technically, Austin’s win over Carolina was not an upset, but it sure felt like one. Austin had never won a playoff game while Carolina won the 2021 championship and has become a mainstay at Championship Weekend. The Sol have been building through a core of homegrown players since 2021. They’ve steadily improved each year and now have a chance to play for a division championship.
  • Indianapolis easily took down Chicago. Their eight point win was the largest of the weekend, and they’ll face hometown favorite Minnesota for the right to advance to Championship Weekend.
  • The DC Breeze also took down playoff debutants Boston Glory by a touchdown. They have the challenge of facing New York in the next round.

Power Rankings

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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