By: Louis Zatzman
After two thrilling days at Nationals, the four top seeds remain in the men’s division. (1) San Francisco Revolver, (2) Seattle Sockeye, (3) New York PoNY and (4) Raleigh Ring of Fire will all head to the semifinals, though at times, it didn’t seem like they would all hold seed. Here’s how it happened.
(7) Boston DiG – 11
(6) Washington, D.C Truck Stop – 15
(11) Austin Doublewide – 15
(15) Denver Johnny Bravo – 14
(9) Chicago Machine – 15
(13) Michigan High Five – 8
(5) Vancouver Furious George – 12
(12) Minneapolis Sub Zero – 14
D.C. never trailed in a dominant showing over Boston. Truck Stop struck first following a dropped swing from DiG. Joe Richards elevated on the immediate huck, and he put a variety of Boston players on a poster for the first goal – a break – of the game. Both teams responded to the exciting beginning by sliding into an offensive free for all. Little defense was played as both teams traded turn-free holds until Truck Stop led 6-5.
The next point saw a variety of unforced turnovers, including a Tannor Johnson huck that flew into double coverage. Truck Stop eventually punched in their second break as Rowan McDonnell slotted a three-yard scoober into Troy Holland.
Coming out of the second half, it looked like Boston might fight their way back into the game with a break and then ferocious defense, but Truck managed to hold. DiG dropped the disc on a deep shot on the next play, and D.C went on to win the game comfortably, 15-11.
Chicago Machine quickly put an end to High Five’s energetic run, winning 15-8. A balanced effort from Machine allowed them to finish with zero turns in the first half, though they were broken once in the second.
“We want to win the energy battle, every second of every game,” said Kurt Gibson, explaining his team’s brilliant play.
Furious George continued their encouraging play, but they weren’t able to top Minneapolis Sub Zero. Minneapolis won more comfortably than the 14-12 score indicates. Morgan Hibbert was terrific for Furious, saving a variety of discs that were bound for the turf. Sub Zero lacked an athlete who could match Hibbert’s size and athleticism. Andre Gailits owned the deep space for Vancouver when Hibbert wasn’t around.
However, Sub Zero was too much. As usual, Josh Klane’s throws were pinpoint, while Jay Drescher dominated in the air for the defense. The game was incredibly choppy, with a variety of multi-turnover points. Sub was great in the muck of a sloppy game.
“Our guys got a lot of grit,” said star Greg Cousins simply.
Johnny Bravo was a tough out for Doublewide, but Austin’s veteran depth delivered at the end of the game. After holding on-serve all the way through the first half, Doublewide took a late lead 14-12. Both teams relied on hucks as their legs tired, but Stanley Peterson erased an Austin shot to pull Denver to 14 and a tie score. Austin didn’t fold. After an offensive hold, Andrew Walch thrilled the crowd with a catch block in his own end zone to regain possession for Doublewide. Matt Bennett launched a huck to Michael Matthis to claim victory for the Texans.
(1) San Francisco Revolver – 15
(6) Washington, D.C. Truck Stop – 11
(11) Austin Doublewide – 10
(4) Raleigh Ring of Fire – 14
(3) New York PoNY – 13
(9) Chicago Machine – 11
(12) Minneapolis Sub Zero – 10
(2) Seattle Sockeye – 15
Truck Stop played a great game, but a great game wasn’t going to beat Revolver. In a hard-fought contest, Revolver won 15-11.
“I think the score isn’t necessarily indicative of how hard that game really was. They really pushed us,” said star handler Ashlin Joye.
The game began on even footing, as a huck to Rowan McDonnell flew too far for Truck to wrangle. Revolver responded by sailing a huck past Cassidy Rasmussen. Given a second chance, McDonnell climbed the ladder and dominated his Revolver defender in the air.
With D.C. marking middle and hanging defenders far off of deep cutters like Antoine Davis, Revolver attempted practically no hucks after their initial failure. They took easy unders, running hard cuts and grinding yards slowly down the field. Joye threw multiple assists to wide-open cutters, requiring only simple break throws.
D.C. kept pace with San Francisco early in the game, but Revolver will pounce on any miscue. Simple mistakes – a drop here and a misthrow there – gave Revolver the few chances they required. Already leading 6-5, Simon Higgins soared to bring down a deep shot for Revolver.
When Truck tried to throw zone at Revolver, Grant Lindsley and Joel Schlachet took over and kept the disc moving downfield. Their patience paced Revolver early in the second half. Shortly thereafter, Revolver bizarrely turned to hucks. They weren’t always successful, and they even allowed Truck Stop to break their offense once.
“[Changing to hucks] wasn’t anything we talked about,” admitted Joye. “Sometimes people get a little antsy.”
When it looked like Truck Stop might be making a push, Marcelo Sanchez bid with no regard for his safety alongside Tyler Monroe. Both star athletes had a play on the disc, but Sanchez just pushed past him for the goal. The superman catch gave Revolver a 12-10 lead, which they supplanted with a few late breaks to run up the score. Truck Stop played an incredible game, but Revolver was too fast, too athletic and too disciplined to fall.
On the field beside Revolver and Truck Stop, Ring of Fire confidently beat a talented Austin Doublewide 14-10.
Ring has improved with each game they’ve played at Nationals, and their Austin game was no exception. The offense clicked, with only one multi-turnover point. The defense was stifling.
“I think, defensively, we finally had our legs,” said Coach Mike DeNardis. “When we can send 13-14 defenders at our [opponent], and run different sets, and use different personnel in those sets, we have a top-notch defense.”
Ring’s offense started out wretchedly. They overthrew the 6’6” Henry Fisher on the first play and were broken. Ring’s throwers somehow then overthrew the 6’7” Mischa Freystaetter on the second play, though they recovered to hold the point.
Shortly thereafter, Ring’s monster athletes in Freystaetter and Jacob Fairfax began leaving positive handprints on the game. Fairfax recorded a huge chase-down block, while Freystaetter milked a little flip pass into the end zone for a break goal. A Tim McAllister deep strike let Ring take half, 8-5.
Doublewide fought back. After an offensive hold to start the half, Matt Bennett assisted on a break goal, tossing a monster flick huck to Jay Froude, who practically levitated before snatching the disc, fully outstretched.
Like Revolver beside them, Ring of Fire closed the game in style. Doublewide broke to notch the game at 11-10 after an ugly point with a carnival of turnovers from both teams’ throwers. After holding on offense, Ring pinned Doublewide in their end zone with a monster pull. The zone defense forced a turnover, and Ring converted. The next point saw Eric Taylor record a highlight of his own with a leaping block, and Ring again broke to win, scoring the final four points of the game.
PoNY is thus far the holder of the greatest comeback at Nationals in the men’s division, and it’s unlikely that they’ll be caught. After falling behind 7-4 against a fearsome Chicago Machine, New York dominated for the remainder of the game, eventually winning 13-11.
Chicago opened the game with a break, and New York compounded the issue by flubbing a weak-hand backhand into the end zone on the next point. Meanwhile, Chicago’s offense broke PoNY’s marks easily, and the offense had little trouble scoring quickly.
On the other end, Chicago used junky zone looks to stymie New York’s offense. While Chicago scored quickly and raced off the field, New York’s offense required dozens of throws, and several minutes, just to hold. Late in the first half, a Harper Garvey hammer flew off the field, and Sam Kanner scored a break goal for Chicago. The next point saw an impatient New York huck get blocked, and the Machine break pushed them ahead 7-4.
“We were forcing things. The defense they were playing was giving us all sorts of trouble. They were flying around the field, making things look open and then closing them,” said Jimmy Mickle. “The key to the game was we had to just get our defense out there. We knew they could do it, we just had to get off the field.”
New York’s defense improved dramatically, as they crossed stars like Ben Jagt, Mickle and Chris Kocher to the defense. After a quick defensive run, they were only down 8-7 at half. The teams traded points until 11-10, when New York took over.
PoNY held against a zone, and then a Machine drop allowed New York to cleanly push down the field. Ben Spielman recorded a huge skying block on the next point, and Mike Drost topped it off with a layout D on a quick Machine up-line throw. New York finished the game with three consecutive breaks.
“We ended up being a little more patient,” said Mickle of his team’s offense down the stretch. “We adjusted from having three handlers back; we shifted to two, so we could do a little more of a quarterback system and get some more people running around the middle to spread out their wall that was sitting there.”
Seattle Sockeye played the most dominant game of the quarters, never trailing against a talented Sub Zero team before finishing 15-10. Seattle’s offense was crisp, with their speed virtually unmatched. They weren’t broken a single time.
“We matched up well. They’re quick and athletic and strong. Their style of defense is very much keeping the gaps tight and trying to make plays with their athleticism, and I think that’s good for us,” said Dylan Freechild of how his team scored so efficiently on offense. “When teams flash in the lane and make spaces small, I hate to say it, but it’s the same way people play defense on Revolver. It takes away our space, so they started to flash the lanes at the end, but we came out knowing that, so the idea was to create a little more space.”
Preparation gave Sockeye an advantage, but it wasn’t until midway through the first half that they capitalized. After trading scores for the first seven points of the game, Sockeye scored an up-line break as Billy Katz dragged the line with two defenders helpless to stop him. Only moments later, Sockeye pushed ahead to 7-4 after another break.
When Sockeye takes a lead, they’re a hard team to catch. They reach an emotional peak, spurred on by Freechild, Katz and others, which pushes the team to its highest quality of play.
“I wouldn’t say our performance is dependent on what level we hit in our emotional investment, necessarily,” said Freechild. “But it is something that we’ve talked about, making sure that we are consistent. Whether it’s consistently middle, consistently high, consistently low, we want to make sure that we’re consistent.”
In the fifth-place bracket between the defeated pre-quarter teams, Doublewide topped Machine 15-8, and Truck Stop beat Sub Zero 13-11. Austin and D.C. will tangle tomorrow to decide fifth place, and both will be Pro Flight teams next year.
In bracket play, to decide flight status for next year, Furious George won out over Madison Club and Johnny Bravo, earning the right to play Sub Zero for a Pro Flight ranking next year. On the other side, High Five topped Rhino Slam! and Temper, so they’ll face Machine tomorrow for the other Pro Flight spot.