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2017 National Championships: Men’s Day Four Recap

By: Tony Leonardo

San Francisco Revolver came in as the favorites, sure, but Austin Doublewide was a true wild card. Could they keep peaking? Would they get to the point where they could steal this game? After all, last time we saw Revolver, they had a rash of turns. If Doublewide was on their game, they could hang, right?

We never got a chance to find out. Revolver started on defense. Typical early jitters get a turn from Doublewide on a drop, and Revolver scores. Then two turns, Nathan White tips a disc, tips it again and catches it; Revolver turns, Revolver gets it back, Revolver scores, 2-0. Facing the wind, Doublewide hangs one on a swing to Abe Coffin who goes up very, very high but…6’4” Nathan White goes up too and almost catches the callahan. Revolver punches it in, 3-0. Matt Bennett, the D-line handler, gets on the O line for Doublewide, but Christian Johnson gets a run-through block on a Dalton Smith throw, and Sam Kanner laces one to Eli Friedman. Jay Froude tries to get back in rhythm for Doublewide after being part of nearly all of the turnovers to start the game, but his huck to Ethan Pollack is too low, and Antoine Davis peels off for Revolver to get in the way. Cassidy Rasmussen finds George Stubbs in the back of the end zone. 5-0 Revolver.

On the sideline, the O line just waits: Beau Kittredge, Grant Lindsley, Ashlin Joye among them. They’re just hanging around, biding time. But when they get on the field, you know they’re going to be lethal.

The game ended Revolver 15, Doublewide 7 – the fifth championship for the storied Revolver, and they got to avenge their 2012 finals loss to the squad from Texas. In the process, you have to look at this edition of Revolver as one of the most talented defensive teams ever assembled.

In the huddle after the game, captain Lucas Dallmann said, “Last year was one of the hardest huddles I’ve been a part of and was at a loss for words, but this year…I’m also at a loss for words. But for a better reason.”

Mike Payne: “I’ve never been prouder. This was Revolver ultimate, and the best I’ve seen. We saved our best game for last.”

Grant Lindsley and Payne are pulled away for interviews on the ESPN broadcast, but Lindsley gives the team one parting sound bite, “I’m not going to say shit, because we just did all the talking on the field!” and off he goes.

Now it’s George Stubbs’ turn to speak. Long considered one of the best players in the world for his perpetually churning legs on both sides of the disc, his big-bomb backhands and his enormous heart and Spirit of the Game that has given his teams so much.

“I’ve been in this huddle on the other side five times,” said Stubbs. “Thank you for bringing me to this side. I’ve been on a lot of great teams but never been on a team that has grown this much in a season.”

Later I caught up with George and asked him what it meant to be with this team. “Love. Having each other’s backs. When you’re lifting, when you’re doing sprints and feel it – it’s the culture of the team that keeps you going.”

“They say that this tournament is won after regionals and before Nationals and what your team can do in that time,” said Stubbs. “Last year [a loss in finals], I was slow and not in my best head space. But this year, I felt dominant, and that’s because the success of Revolver is built on role playing.”

Back to the defense for a second. They were suffocating on the mark and unders. Heads were always swiveling around, separate from their bodies because their legs never stopped moving, assessing the field and looking for where to help. Constant movement, constant re-positioning of their feet and hips to be able to strike in either direction. No team came close to matching that kind of personal perfection. So they were tight on the dump defense; everyone knew this coming into Nationals, but what sealed the wins for this team was the over-the-top help in the back. If you wanted to send one deep to relieve the pressure, there would be streakers from San Francisco racing to the disc. Ds on long balls and intense pressure underneath was the formula. A day late, but I realized while watching this game just how good Ring of Fire actually was and that they had the right strategy. Revolver just beat them at their own game. It was that simple.

“We were hungry,” Revolver’s Eli Kerns told me after the game. “We have two lines, D1 and D2, eight players on each line, and then we have a zone line. D1 and D2 compete against each other at practice and keep track of turns, breaks, opportunities, and it can get chippy.”

The lines they ran out there were formidable. Kerns, Stuart, Stubbs, Davis, Friedman, Sam Kanner. Then Russell Wynne, Byron Liu, Greg Cohen, Christian Johnson, Michael Spear, Sawyer Thompson, Zach Travis, Cassidy Rasmussen. The horror show for Doublewide never ended as wave after wave of fresh Revolver defenders crashed any semblance of an offense Doublewide hoped to employ.

“It’s almost like you’re playing against Team U.S.A. or something!” cracked sideline heckler Chris Mazur of Dallas Public Enemy. Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Doublewide was finally able to get on the board, get a break even. Malecek wasn’t the man for this offense in the beginning – they either needed four Maleceks like Ring of Fire had or four Abe Coffins able to move the disc quick and fast. But Doublewide stayed with the deep looks from Malecek, interspersed with gainers from Chase Cunningham, Froude, Dan Emmons. It wasn’t enough. Matt Bennet got a couple of scoober goals, Revolver’s O line came on and scored – repeat that twice, and neither time did Kittredge need to even be out there.

In fact, check out the box score after the game – pretty sure no goals or assists from the great Kittredge – no need for them. He knew that. If this game was close, he would have been out there.

“We have an 11-person O rotation, and they call themselves on the line as they see fit,” Payne explained to me. Cody Mills confirmed that Revolver has been not-calling O lines for years.

Sure the O line struggled a bit in this game actually, they just really haven’t been all that awesome all season. They haven’t needed to be. Joye made some plays, Higgins, Grant Lindsley are still some of the best in the world, but since we saw then so infrequently, it just didn’t leave much of an impression. Stubbs got his backhand bomb score in. Doi is tireless and never stops cutting.

“Revolver played great, and we had our worst game of the tournament,” Matt Bennett told me afterward. “Maybe if we could have started on D”. It was tough to say. I’m not sure Revolver was going to be defeated this tournament.

“Next year we’ll be back, and it will be even more fun,” said Bennett.

Again with the Revolver defense, what made this defense so strong?

“The Revolver D lines in the past have been hard man, but we worked a lot this year on switching, and the switching was tight,” Kerns explained. “It made the field more available for me, personally. For me, starting off playing mixed really helped too. You really see the field; it helps your field vision.”

The final point of the game was Cassidy Rasmussen finding a streaking Nick Stuart in the end zone on a 30-yard short, away goal. The team gathered in the far end zone to celebrate, and the first cheer they did was “Not enough! Not enough!”

After, there were a lot of big hugs.

Doublewide’s season ended one half earlier than expected. “It’s too bad we didn’t give ourselves a chance,” Doublewide’s Ethan Pollack told me afterwards. But Jay Froude had a breakout season, and the heartbreak of this game will be fuel one day for this team to return. Froude then collected the Peter Farricker Spirit Award, the Spirit of the Game award in the men’s division – heart begets heart.