August 26, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
3. Toronto Rush
Despite making a late 8-3 push in the fourth quarter in Montreal, the Rush dropped their fourth game in five, and will now need to win out their final remaining three games for a chance at the Canada Cup championship game. It’s still a dizzying sight to see Toronto at the bottom of the standings after nearly a decade firmly atop the East, but 2021 has proven again and again that old hierarchies in the AUDL no longer exist. Nathan Hirst continues to be one of the most dangerous and underrated mid strikers in the league, averaging 35 completions, three assists, and over 300 throwing yards per game.
2. Ottawa Outlaws
The Outlaws ended their three-game losing streak Sunday with another offensive explosion, scoring 25-plus for the third time in six games in their 25-24 thriller over Montreal. The veteran throwing duo of Geoff Bevan and Greg Ellis continue to spread the disc around with high velocity and efficiency; the two combined for seven assists, 68 completions, and over 600 passing yards in the win. But it was Ottawa’s young defense that deserves credit for the W, as Jon Hallett’s three-block game led an Outlaws unit that earned 10 takeaways against a very good Royal offense.
1. Montreal Royal
Despite splitting their pair of games last weekend, the Royal are still executing at a level on both sides of the disc that makes them the clear cut favorite to win the Canada Cup at this time. Yes, the Montreal defense surrendered 23 goals to the Rush, but they also got 13 takeaways in the process, making highlight blocks throughout and converting nearly 70 percent of their breaks in the win. On Sunday they were without young throwing sensation Jakob Brissette, and still the Royal put up 24 goals and completed 16-of-22 (!!!) hucks on the game. And after a very good rookie season in 2019, Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky is becoming one of the most dangerous downfield strikers in the AUDL. His five goals per game average leads all players, and he’s averaging 400 yards of total offense per game while completing 95 percent of his throws.
2021 AUDL SEASON
19. Detroit Mechanix
And with their final Week 12 loss to Chicago, the Mechanix have now dropped 50 straight, a culmination of three consecutive winless seasons for the Detroit franchise. But if you talk to opponents in the division, they will be quick to point out how much different the 2021 iteration of the Mechanix is from previous seasons. Bryan Walsh and Andrew Sjogren are among the league leaders in throwing and receiving stat categories, respectively; both had 600-plus yards in the finale, with Walsh going off for 489 receiving yards and 353 throwing yards, finishing just 21 yards shy of a 6000-yard season.
18. Indianapolis AlleyCats
It bears repeating that this 2021 AlleyCats team had a new coach and just six returners from their 2019 division championship roster, with one of those six being Cameron Brock, who unretired midway through the season; Indy has gone through a significant and systematic transformation. And with the exception of their games against Chicago, the ‘Cats remained competitive in all their Central matchups, giving scares to both Madison and Minnesota on multiple occasions. Fun throwing fact: For the ninth time in nine seasons, the AlleyCats franchise had at least three players throw 30-plus assists.
17. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
The Thunderbirds really snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday night against a very good Hustle team, committing grave mistakes with the disc both at the end of regulation and the first overtime on their way to losing in double OT. Max Sheppard had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 13 total scores and nearly 800 total yards while making a series of jaw-dropping highlights. CJ Colicchio closed out his first year in Pittsburgh with a 10-goal night, and the T-birds offense once again lit up a normally stout Atlanta defense. But Pittsburgh just cannot get stops, finishing 2021 with the second worst scoring defense in the league that allowed 24 goals per game.
16. Tampa Bay Cannons
Tampa Bay are the second lowest scoring team in the league, averaging just 17 goals per game. But despite the team’s overall offensive efficiency struggles, the young trio of Eric Sjostrom, Unmil Patel, and Tannon Hedges showed off their versatility and potentially a bright future for the Cannons. All three saw expanded roles in Tampa Bay’s last three games, with the Cannons averaging nearly 21 per game during that span.
15. Seattle Cascades
The Cascades offense is still developing—Seattle finished in the bottom five in scoring and efficiency in 2021—but it already possesses a lot of highlight potential. 20-year-old Jack Brown and rookie Jake Steen were the only two Cascades players to register 20-plus goals this season, and both are trouble for defenders in the air. Steen has a background in high jumping, while Brown has made a name for himself in his first two pro seasons with his jack-in-the-box hops.
14. San Jose Spiders
The Spiders held a six-goal lead on the road at halftime in Los Angeles before succumbing to the Aviators’ rally, losing 21-20 as San Jose’s final pass of the season was swatted away in the end zone. Justin Norden had over 700 yards of offense in the finale, and finishes 2021 with 42 assists, 443 completions, and 3,464 throwing yards; Norden quietly remains one of the best throwers in the West, if not the league as a whole. Jordan Kerr also wrapped up one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent memory with a big night, throwing four assists and scoring four goals while compiling over 500 yards of total offense; Kerr finished his rookie campaign with 25 assists, 27 goals, 13 blocks, and 4,891 yards of total offense, while completing 94 percent of his 307 throws.
13. Philadelphia Phoenix
For the 10th straight game of the season, the Phoenix surrendered 20-plus goals in their Week 12 closeout loss against Boston. Philly is dead last in takeaways per game (7.8), and have five games with five or fewer blocks in 2021, including Saturday night’s defeat. Greg Martin ended his career year in style, collecting five goals—his sixth game with five or more this season—on 339 yards receiving, punctuating the performance with two of his now signature sky goals. With 51 goals and over 3,100 receiving yards compared to just 12 total turnovers, Martin ends 2021 with one of the most memorable seasons in AUDL history from a pure receiving standpoint.
12. Madison Radicals
Going for their 100th win as a franchise, the Radicals would probably be best served to not remember Sunday’s turnover-heavy loss in Minnesota. Historically one of the best teams in the league at possession, Madison finished the season with four games of 20 or more turnovers; the Radicals still rank eighth overall in 2021. Victor Luo, Rami Paust, and Logan Pruess each finished with 2650-plus throwing yards, but Paust and Chris Wilen were the only Radicals to finish with over 2000 yards receiving; Madison struggled to stretch the field offensively, especially in the latter half of their season.
11. Los Angeles Aviators
A bittersweet closing to an emotional 2021 Aviators season as they crawl back from a six-goal deficit to gut out a 21-20 last second win at home. Sean McDougall and Sam Cook are one of the most entertaining and versatile cutting duos in the league, while Calvin Brown now has six assists and eight blocks in his last two games and is playing like a true star on LA’s defensive rotations. LA still commits far, far too many turnovers to be a winner—they had 20 or more turnovers in all but three games in 2021—but they have the playmaking of a playoff caliber team.
10. Boston Glory
Were it not for Minnesota’s backslide towards the postseason that we’ll get to in a second, Boston would be the team with the talent and visible playstyle that most frustrates me in 2021. Glory sport the number two scoring offense in the league, which makes absolute sense when you watch Ben Sadok, Tanner Halkyard, Orion Cable, and a handful of other adept skill players on offense carve it up with the disc. But despite having good matchup defenders in Chris Bartoli and now late season addition Cam Wariner, Boston just cannot slow down opposing offenses, surrendering 22.5 goals per game, fourth worst in the AUDL. Boston has converted six or fewer breaks in seven games this season, including just two in Friday night’s loss in New York.
9. Austin Sol
The receiving trio of Evan Swiatek, Vinay Valsaraj, and Eric Brodbeck give the Sol one of the most exciting and dangerous downfield sets going into the future. Each finished 2021 with at least 27 goals and 2,200 yards receiving, and all showcased potent throwing repertoires; Brodbeck in particular was one of the best throwers in the West this season, tossing 29 assists on 300 completions at a 95.2 percent rate.
8. Minnesota Wind Chill
The Wind Chill finished the 2021 with their second 10-plus win regular season in franchise history, and are riding a four-game winning streak into the playoffs since their July 24 loss to Chicago. However, in two of those four games Minnesota committed 20-plus turnovers, and in Sunday’s regular season finale, the Wind Chill failed to score a goal in the fourth quarter. It wouldn’t mean so much were it not for the fact that the Wind Chill offense visibly looks off over the last month of play, and now they face a full strength Chicago defense that ranks within the league’s top three overall.
7. Dallas Roughnecks
I remain suspiciously confident of this Dallas team as we enter the postseason—no, it has nothing to do with ranking them number one in the preseason and then being thoroughly wrong about it throughout the regular season...Ok, it’s slightly that. But mostly, this is a 2021 Roughnecks team that defines itself as an underdog, and now they go on the road against a slightly favored San Diego team that Dallas handled in their most recent matchup.
6. San Diego Growlers
The Growlers closed out their second straight 10-win regular season with one of their most impressive performances of 2021. San Diego was a perfect 6-of-6 on hucks, but more impressively, 10-of-11 on break opportunities. Steven Milardovich is playing maybe the best ultimate of his already illustrious career, tallying three-plus blocks in each of his last four games; Milardovich is tied for fifth in the AUDL with 19 blocks this season. He now has 130 blocks all-time, putting him 10th in league history. But among the 12 players with at least 120 career blocks, Milardovich is fourth all-time in blocks per game at 1.78.
5. Raleigh Flyers
Not again. For the second time in three weeks, Raleigh loses a heartbreaker in sudden death, double overtime to a potential playoff foe, this time in DC. The Flyers finished as the best 8-4 team ever, with all four losses occurring by a single goal to Atlanta, DC (twice), and New York, three of the four teams that exceed Raleigh on this list. Anders Juengst’s seven-goal performance against DC’s top flight defense makes him a clear finalist for Rookie Of The Year. Juengst finished the regular season fourth in goals (48) to go along with 23 assists and over 4,000 yards of total offense compared to just nine total turnovers.
4. Atlanta Hustle
By the skin of their teeth, Atlanta avoided a three-game losing streak entering the postseason by narrowly pulling out the 26-25 win in double OT in Pittsburgh. Austin Taylor continues to play Pittsburgh like the city collectively owes him money; Taylor has 22 assists, 111 completions (97 percent), and over 2,000 yards of total offense in two games against the Thunderbirds in 2021. Read those stats again. But the more pressing reality is the disappearance of the once vaunted Hustle defense, as Atlanta has now given up 20-plus goals in five straight games entering the playoffs.
3. Chicago Union
For the first time since 2016, someone other than Pawel Janas will hold the season assists crown. Of course that was a setup pitch for the real fastball: Janas just completed his fourth straight regular season with at least 480 completions and 50 assists, and is completing a personal best 97.4 percent of his throws. And over his last four games, Janas is playing his best ultimate of the season. He has 21 assists and is averaging 49 completions and 454 passing yards per game over that stretch—all Union wins—and has really found a balance between being a cog and star-level playmaker in a loaded Chicago offense.
2. DC Breeze
The prospect of playing at home with a championship on the line clearly has given the Breeze an edge in 2021. They simply out grinded the Flyers down the stretch, with Luke Rehfuss’ explosive block to deny Raleigh at the end of the first OT epitomizing a DC defense that has made highlight-reel plays all season long. The Flyers have the top scoring offense in the league, and while Raleigh could still put up points, the Breeze continually found ways to force pressure and be disruptive. The win now guarantees DC home field advantage throughout the postseason, a potential championship-run level spark for an already fired up Breeze team.
1. New York Empire
Even in a season with as much parity as 2021 has offered, and with no clear favorite for the title, there is a clear separation between the field and this New York team in terms of sheer playmaking, and the Empire showcased that on Friday night. Whether it’s Ryan Osgar and Ben Jagt absolutely dominating opposing defenses with their play, Jack Williams launching 40-yard thumbers from a recliner like it’s nothing, or a suddenly punchy New York defense that is playing its best ultimate of the season; Empire have 10 or more blocks in six of their last seven, and their counter attacking with Conor Kline and rookie Solomon Rueschemeyer-Bailey now on D-line has been potent.
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