August 10, 2021
By Evan Lepler
The more things change, the more they stay the same?
Maybe. I guess. The cliche only gets you so far.
New York beat Raleigh in double overtime. Again. Dallas edged Austin when it mattered. Again. Detroit led at the half before nosediving. Again.
And while the results may have felt familiar, the complex circumstances and unforgettable sequences forever impact the long-term narratives differently. Yes, the Flyers endured another indescribable heartbreaker, but Raleigh also showed some impressive mettle and will have an immediate chance to bounce back on Saturday. Sure, the Roughnecks still have bragging rights, but they know deep down that Austin’s future is brighter than its ever been. And the Mechanix, for the second straight week were the superior team for 24 minutes, only to fall apart in the third quarter. Baby steps for the franchise that has now astoundingly lost 48 straight.
Like many participants and fans, I am still catching by breath after the insane finish in New York, struggling to digest everything that transpired throughout the outrageous concluding moments. In the meantime, let’s catch up on the clarifying playoff picture that Week 10 produced.
In the West, San Diego (8-2) and Dallas (8-4) both clinched playoff berths this past weekend. The Growlers will host the West title game if they can win either of their two remaining games, at Los Angeles and vs. San Jose. Assuming San Diego does not fizzle down the stretch, the Roughnecks will head to SoCal the last weekend in August for the rubber match of the season series, with a coveted trip to Championship Weekend on the line.
In the Central, Chicago (9-2) clinched their playoff spot in Week 9 and nothing else was firmed up this past weekend. The Union can clinch home-field in the playoffs by winning at Detroit in Week 12. Minnesota (7-2) can secure their postseason plans by beating Indianapolis or Detroit on the road this weekend. The Wind Chill only need one more win to lock themselves into the tournament.
And in the Atlantic, DC (8-2) officially joined the playoff party in Week 10 by sweeping their doubleheader road trip through Pennsylvania. Thanks to the Hustle’s loss against Tampa Bay, the Breeze are currently the top seed, although Atlanta (8-2) would win a potential three-team tiebreaker between the Breeze, Hustle, and Empire if all three of those teams win out to finish 10-2.
Raleigh (7-3) also clinched a playoff berth courtesy of Friday’s exciting triumph in Boston. New York (6-2) looks like a certain playoff participant too, although the Empire could still mathematically be caught by Boston if New York drops three of its final four games, including losing twice against the Glory later this month. It feels way more relevant to note that the Empire will become big Raleigh fans over the next two weeks, hoping the Flyers can knock off the Hustle and Breeze in order for New York to potentially host a playoff game sometime on Labor Day Weekend.
The eight teams are almost set, but we still have so many questions. And our Week 10 review will begin with a rhetorical query, one that ponders the interesting intersection between joy and relief.
The Full Field Layout
“Is relief-induced joy a thing?” John Lithio asked.
New York’s 28-year-old AUDL rookie had played arguably his best game of the season, but he stood in stunned disbelief moments after he shanked a deep shot that could have all but iced the Empire’s Saturday night win in regulation. Consequently, that’s how he answered the question of whether he experienced exhilaration, excitement, or relief when Jeff Babbitt caught Jack Williams’ 31-yard inside-flick in double overtime.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more relief than watching Jeff catch that last score,” said Lithio. “I wish it had been exhilaration or excitement, but all of the huge plays my teammates made in the end of OT and double-OT really just brought on pure relief for me each time.”
Lithio finished with a game-high five goals and 442 receiving yards in the Empire’s heart-stopping 24-23 victory over the Flyers, a game that included some of the wildest late-game momentum swings in AUDL history. In the waning moments of regulation, it felt like New York could not lose. Near the end of overtime, it seemed clear that Raleigh had the win in the bag. During the final climactic point in double overtime, both teams had their chances before the Empire echoed their universe-point past, with Williams’ lethal laser serving as the final throw in a game that you could see and still not believe.
After it was over, Empire Co-Coach Charlie Hoppes mentioned that he usually possesses close to a photographic memory for the key moments in a game that just recently ended, but on this particular night, everything from about two minutes left in regulation through the second overtime felt like a blur.
“I have also been thinking about the game for the past couple of days attempting to unpack all the chaos that occurred down the stretch,” said Babbitt, who’s double-overtime block preceded his game-sealing goal. “It definitely comes down to both teams making a series of poor decisions or executing poorly, followed by some incredible strings of grit and composure to overcome multiple point deficits in short time periods.”
We could spend hours rehashing a few key sequences late in the game, but that would not do justice to the tremendous playmaking we witnessed over the first 45 minutes of the game. The Empire began the game brilliantly and seemingly seized control, but the Flyers kept converting end-of-quarter mini-breaks to stay within striking distance. In fact, Raleigh registered the final goal in all four quarters, scoring with less than 10 seconds remaining four consecutive times.
“I think their O deserves credit for playing a very clean game through the first three quarters,” said Flyers handler Sol Yanuck. “They were really efficient with mid-range, across the stack shots and generally didn’t reach for deep throws into coverage as much as I expected them to. However, end of quarter situations are the number one thing we have spent the most time on at practice, and I think [Coach] Mike [DeNardis] has made some good adjustments to our approach based on the opponent this year."
"Gotta win the special teams, not just O and D!”
Yanuck led all throwers with 522 passing yards and 74 completions, but his toss to an open Matt Gouchoe-Hanas late in regulation floated over the head of his childhood friend, leaving the Flyers trailing by one with less than a minute left. New York took a timeout, inserted the offense, and just needed to possess for 50 seconds to prevail.
“When I got the disc behind the defense, I knew as I turned that I might have a great look available,” said Lithio. “It turned out to be even more open than I expected and it was Jeff Babbitt going deep, so you’d be hard-pressed to ever find a better deep look than that. Even still, I rushed the throw a bit. It stuck to my finger as I followed-through, and I managed to put the disc in just about the only spot where Jeff wouldn’t be able to get it.
“I’d say my main recurring thought at the time was just, ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ We were about to shut the door, and I threw that door wide open again.”
Indeed, Raleigh’s D-line traversed the entire field in less than 30 seconds without a timeout, and Alex Davis caught the equalizer with five seconds remaining, tying the score at 21 and forcing overtime.
New York won the overtime toss and, in a surprise to some, chose to pull, hoping they would have the advantage heading into a potential double OT point. That decision very nearly backfired, of course, as the Flyers scored the first two points of the overtime to take a 23-21 lead, their largest lead of the entire game. Then New York’s Ben Jagt errantly threw a red-zone pass with only 35 seconds left. Jagt begged for a foul, but no call or integrity rule overturn arrived, leaving the Empire in the most dire of positions: trailing by two, playing defense, with just over 30 seconds left. From a probability perspective, the Flyers perhaps had a 99 percent chance of winning at that exact moment.
How did it all unravel from there?
Raleigh had excelled with its hammers all game long, but the Empire double-team sideline traps and their speedy, rangy defenders created multiple turnovers when New York needed them most. First, Jagt smacked down Elijah Long’s cross-field attempt, nearly catching the Callahan and quickly converting the goal to bring the Empire within one with 29 seconds left. Then, after Marques Brownlee’s ‘onside pull’—dropping the disc on the goal-line near the sideline pylon—Eric Taylor’s nearly identical cross-field hammer got swatted away by Ben Katz. Stunningly, New York had the disc again and a chance to tie.
Soon thereafter, following Brownlee’s smooth 34-yard flick to Jagt across midfield with less than 10 seconds left, a sprinting Williams was open for an 35-yard upline score, which he hauled in near the sideline to tie the game at 23-all with just one second remaining, as the home crowd erupted uproariously.
That shocking sequence set the stage for double OT, where the Empire would start on offense. After four short completions, Ryan Osgar launched a picturesque huck for Lithio, which the New York big man snagged a yard shy of the goal line.
So close, yet still so far away.
Following a red-zone timeout, Elliott Chartock’s toss toward Jack Williams landed incomplete, as pleas for another foul call did not inspire a whistle. Replays revealed some undeniable contact between Williams and Raleigh’s Tim McAllister, but Williams also misplayed the disc, admitting after the game that the stadium lights, in the same sight-line as the potential game-winning frisbee, prevented him from seeing the disc in that pivotal moment.
Despite the epic collapse in the final 34 seconds of the first overtime period, the Flyers again had life, taking their timeout to sub in the offense. But 80 yards away from the dramatic victory proved too tall a task in that instant, as Jacob Fairfax’s mis-thrown huck for Henry Fisher got blocked by Babbitt. Eleven throws later, Williams found Babbitt, and the 24-23 double-OT thriller had reached its conclusion.
“I know Jack has a lot of trust in me,” said Babbitt, “so I waited for a good moment to strike to the cone and knew he’d throw it. After catching the goal, I was amped as well as exhausted.”
Collectively, the Empire relished the cathartic and not quite conflicting feelings of victory and relief. The Flyers, meanwhile, were understandably shaken, but long-time leader Noah Saul pushed the narrative forward, recognizing that Raleigh still has a challenging but potentially promising road ahead.
“We got some good words from Noah about keeping the big picture in mind, understanding what the ultimate goal is, and maintaining belief in our group,” said Yanuck. “We are executing at a really high level in a lot of aspects of our game, we just need to bring all the ingredients together and we’ll be in good shape. Another one-point loss is no-fun, especially with so many opportunities to put the game away, and there’s no way around that. But hey, we were all sitting on our couches in March. I spent a few minutes after the game just drinking in the atmosphere, feeling grateful for the opportunity to compete and feel so invested in a game like that again, outcome notwithstanding.”
Depending on how things unfold over the next couple weeks, we could very well see a Raleigh-New York rematch in the first round of the playoffs. And even further in the future, if the Flyers and Empire do not intersect in the first round, they could potentially collide in the AUDL championship game.
Take your heart medicine now, everybody.
As unbelievable as the Raleigh/New York experience was, it did not eliminate either side with the finality of Saturday’s Texas tussle. Though the Flyers and Empires have played more double overtimes in two meetings than Dallas and Austin have in 20, Saturday’s Roughnecks/Sol showdown literally had the season riding on it.
“Our team really began prepping for this game as soon as we finished playing the Spiders last week,” said Dallas’ Gabe Hernandez. “We realized we had show flashes of greatness all year long, but that we just hadn’t been able to consistently show it for four quarters. More specifically, there were several games where we came out flat and got scored on multiple times in a row before being able to convert. Because of that, we really tried to emphasize starting the game with lots of energy, and I think we did a good job of executing that, as we were able to go up 8-3.”
In the first three meetings this season, Austin built advantages of three, four, and five, respectively, with Dallas’s only win coming by one in overtime when they overcame the Sol’s largest lead they ever had against the Roughnecks. They script completely flipped in the finale, as Dallas scored the first two goals, four of the first five, and eight of the first 11.
“I think a lot of Dallas’ hot start came from Kai [Marshall] and his presence,” said Sol Captain Mick Walter. “He was everywhere, poaching the under lanes, coming up with big-time snags, a very hot start from Kai.”
Prior to Saturday, Marshall had only played two games all season and none since June 25. But his two blocks in the first quarter absolutely helped set the tone. Furthermore, the Roughnecks’ early urgency was noticeable.
“I think in the first three matchups, the Austin Sol wanted to beat us more than we wanted to beat them, plain and simple,” said Dallas’ Matt Armour. “They draw a ton of energy from their perception that we don’t respect them, which, even if it might’ve been true four years ago, is certainly not the case now. We came into this game knowing we needed to match their energy and take the pregame scouting/preparation as seriously as any playoff game.”
The Roughnecks D-line registered five breaks in the game’s first 14 minutes to lead 8-3, but the Sol immediately responded with a 4-0 burst, inching back within one late in the second quarter. Dallas led 10-8 at halftime, but Austin was right in it.
“Dallas played well from end to end and they forced us to make difficult plays if we wanted to stay in the game,” said Austin’s Eric Brodbeck. “I think we all had confidence in each other before and during the game, we knew we could make a comeback like we have before.”
In the second half, Dallas never led by more than three, and Austin surged back within one on three different occasions, but the Sol could never completely dug themselves out of their early deficit. Walter’s incredible seventh block of the night and immediate assist to Reese Bowman made the score 23-22 with 28 seconds left, but it was too little, too late, as Dallas strung six completions together before time expired, clinching the Roughnecks’ win and the accompanying postseason berth, while simultaneously ending Austin’s season.
“When the final horn sounded, it was a gut shot for the whole team,” said Brodbeck, who finished the night with a game-high 479 yards along with five goals and three assists. “We still had so much left in the tank, but no time left to use it.”
The Roughnecks and Sol finished their season series splitting four matchups, all decided by one, with each team scoring exactly 83 goals over 197 minutes of ultimate. While they were dead even against each other, the difference was Dallas going 6-2 against the rest of the division while Austin went 4-4.
“The game ended up closer than we would have liked, and we know we still have things to polish before our game against San Diego, but it was satisfying to know that we’re moving in the right direction was a team, given all the adversity we’ve faced this year,” said Hernandez, whose full extension layout score in the fourth quarter will certainly be on this week’s Top 10. “I’d also like to give major props to the Sol for having such a successful season, given the limited experience they have…They’re a bright young squad that’s poised to make some noise in the coming years.”
Before the game, Austin’s Jake Radack spent the whole day making t-shirts that said “State Champs.” When time expired with the Sol one goal short, Radack, who happens to be roommates with Dallas’ Kyle Henke, graciously gave the homemade apparel to the Roughnecks. The Sol also handed Dallas a bottle of champagne that they had purchased but had no reason to pop, gifting it to their opponents in a classy postgame gesture.
“The intensity of the rivalry definitely amped up this season, but it was good to see that everyone was still (mostly) friends afterwards,” said Marshall, who finished the game with three blocks.
And while the Sol were understandably disappointed, they also strived to look at the big picture. Austin was picked to finish last by most preseason prognosticators—including yours truly—and the Sol became one of the most fun, likable, and intriguing teams in the entire league.
“The final thoughts around the team were looking towards the future and getting excited about where this stepping stone can ultimate lead us,” said Brodbeck. “I don’t think anyone should count the Sol out next year.”
Added Walter, “A few plays here or there may have ended this season differently. I know we will grow from this, and I’m excited to see what that looks like.”
Seven On The Line
- In a reminder that anything can happen in any given game, the 1-9 Tampa Bay Cannons upset the 8-1 Atlanta Hustle on Saturday night in Georgia, a 21-20 final that brought the Hustle back into a tie for first in the loss column with DC and New York. “That was a tough one, mostly because it was very winnable even without all our guys,” said Matt Smith, referencing the fact that Atlanta only had a small handful of regulars in the lineup. “Tampa honestly did a great job of picking apart our zone. They didn’t get overly aggressive trying to beat it vertically and were instead happy to settle for long swings that tired the front defenders out. Bobby [Ley] and [Eric] Sjostrom have exceptionally accurate flicks and we more or less just let them sit back and quarterback their way to victory.” The two teams were tied 15-15 through three quarters and were within a point or two of each other throughout the entire night. The lone break in the fourth put Tampa Bay up 18-16 with eight minutes left, and though the Hustle had the disc with a chance to tie in the closing minutes, the Cannons held them off. Certainly, Tampa did not care who was missing for Atlanta; the Cannons were still thrilled to experience their first win since June 12. “The win felt amazing, especially after a season of unnerving adversity,” said Tampa Bay Head Coach Andrew Roca. “The most satisfying aspect of the team’s performance was easily the offensive efficiency and completion percentage across the board. Without [Andrew] Roney and against one of the more dangerous/effective zones, we hit 98 percent completion rate as a group. Sjostrom, Ley, and [Billy] O’Bryan were elite craftsmen of that zone. [Tannon] Hedges made a clear case for rookie of the year for us.” After potentially spoiling the Hustle’s top seed, the Cannons return home for their regular season finale against DC, another contender for the Atlantic’s number one spot. Meanwhile, Atlanta travels to Raleigh, still in control of its destiny to host a playoff game, but one more blemish away from potentially wasting their sparkling 8-1 start. “I don’t think the team as a whole will think too much about this past week and will try to just view it as an anomaly and keep on rolling,” said Smith.
- Whereas the Hustle and several other top teams—we’ll get to Chicago, San Diego, and Boston shortly—chose to not prioritize their Week 10 action, the DC Breeze showcased their collective buy-in and depth by barnstorming through Pennsylvania and beating the two Keystone State teams by a combined score of 45-29.
“I think our wins this weekend were a demonstration of the team-wide commitment that people are bringing to the Breeze this year,” said DC’s Jacques Nissen, who led his team with 356 total yards in Sunday’s 25-16 win in Pittsburgh. “This was a tough weekend of travel, with two road games on Friday and Sunday, but we fielded very strong rosters on both days and were able to get fresh legs to come in and play on Sunday as well.” On Friday night in Philly, the Breeze stormed out to a 4-0 lead and cruised to a 20-13 triumph behind Zach Norrbom’s 46-for-46, two-goal, two-assist, one-block performance. Joe Richards and Joe Merrill each snagged four goals, an average effort for the highly acclaimed J&J Roofing company, as the Breeze improved to 7-2. On Sunday afternoon against the Thunderbirds, DC scored twice in the final 12 seconds of the first half, capitalizing on Pittsburgh’s costly centering-pass turnover as time winded down that helped transform a closer 11-9 contest moments earlier into a 13-9 game. The T-Birds surged back within two midway through the third, but the Breeze closed the game on a 10-3 rampage, as the DC D-line recorded 14 breaks in the game. Ben Green, best known for his multi-block point against Atlanta’s Antoine Davis, tallied four blocks in Sunday’s matinee, while the three Bergeron brothers each contributed two blocks apiece. “Really the combination of the three Bergerons plus honorary Bergeron and Herndon hometown hero Ben Green might just be the best defensive family in ultimate right now,” said DC’s Garrett Braun. “I think the run of breaks the defense went on at the end of the Pitt game is very characteristic of the Breeze defense. We value preparedness every game, and every offensive player on the other team is given all the respect they deserve and a a full scouting report by our coaching stuff.” With two wins this past weekend and two games remaining in their regular season, the Breeze officially clinched a playoff berth for the fifth straight season and sixth time in the last seven years. “I’ve gotta give a shoutout to the Breeze organization, the management, staff, coaches and owners,” said Braun. “It is such a professional organization and they really make everything so easy on these crazy logistics travel weekends. I’m proud to say I play for the District.”
- The Chicago Union narrowly escaped Atlanta’s fate by surging in the second half to avoid a far more embarrassing home loss against Detroit, a Mechanix team who saw their losing streak grow to 48 straight games on Saturday night. Although Chicago improved to 9-2 with their 20-16 win, the mood at halftime, when Detroit was up 9-6, was quite bizarre.
“It was an interesting feeling at half,” said Chicago’s Ross Barker. “There was a calmness in the room and also disapproval on everyone’s faces. It wasn’t that we were doing anything systematically wrong or that Detroit was doing anything to evoke a nervous energy. There was some minor frustration, but not in a detriment to our energy. Everyone just accepted the reality of the situation. Like, hey, we are losing to Detroit by three points right now. This game is so far from over, and if we continue to play this loosely, we will lose this game.” Chicago began rolling the pulls out of bounds in the third quarter, forcing Detroit to begin possessions against sideline double teams. This strategy helped produce four consecutive breaks to start the third quarter, and the Union outscored the Mechanix 7-2 in the period. “Huge shout-out to Matt Jaffe for stepping up and handling most of our pulling duties,” said Chicago’s Jeremy Burril. “Missing J-Rob [Jeff Robinson] on pulls is a huge disadvantage. Rolling pulls out of bounds does not sound that hard, but I truly believe that without those rolling pulls we may have had a different outcome on Saturday. Paired with stifling defense, Sam Kaminsky and Tommy Gallagher really ran our offense on turnovers. They took control in the second half.” After a Week 11 bye, the Union can lock up the Central Division’s top seed and the accompanying home playoff game by beating Detroit again on August 21 in their regular season finale.
Whereas Atlanta and Chicago looked like shells of themselves in Week 10, San Diego may have produced its cleanest game of the season despite also missing many of their top players. The Growlers offense was never broken on Saturday night against Los Angeles, as San Diego showcased its depth and versatility in their 24-17 win.
Sure, it helped that a former AUDL MVP could slot seamlessly into the backfield and distribute the disc like he’d been in the system for years! “The Growlers made it very easy just by the group that was on offense,” said Jonathan Nethercutt, who paced the team with 247 throwing yards in his San Diego debut. “Everyone that was on the O-line was essentially a Growlers stalwart, even if some of them typically play a bit more defense. Putting that level of talent and experience on the offense made most of my job simple. I just had to find the open person and throw to them. I think it was just a matter of being extra intentional with my decisions as a thrower, taking extra time to make eye-contact with handlers and be sure the cutter was making the move I thought before throwing.” Nethercutt, Tim Okita, and Paul Lally each finished with four assists, while Nate Pettyjohn scored seven goals in the Growlers comfortable triumph that officially clinched their spot in the playoffs. San Diego Coach Kevin Stuart was very pleased with the team’s overall efficiency on offense and also mentioned the value in having Trevor Purdy and Nate Bridges, a pair of long-time Growlers who were not on the roster for the first two months this season, return for Saturday’s game. “Trevor still has a big frame and won a few in the air at the end of the game, and Bridges brought his normal defensive swagger, which helped later in the game,” said Stuart. “Overall, it was great to see production from the depth on our roster and the attitude that those guys have had throughout the season has been great.” Could we possibly see Nethercutt competing with the Growlers in the playoffs? That answer will remain a mystery for now. “Was fun to be out there, and would definitely consider doing it again, but I simply don’t know,” said Nethercutt.
Before enduring more ultimate heartbreak on Saturday, the Raleigh Flyers did indeed rise to the occasion in crunch-time on Friday night in Boston. After falling behind 3-0 and 6-2 in the opening quarter, the Flyers kept grinding and took their first lead at 16-15 when Noah Saul scored with 8:36 left in the fourth. The long-time Flyers captain added a timely layout block and two more assists just in the final period as Raleigh escaped Beantown with a 19-18 victory.
“That was the most resolve we showed all season,” Flyers Head Coach Mike DeNardis told me on Saturday, prior to the start of the New York game. Down one with 1:18 left after Saul’s dialed-in flick found Fairfax for the go-ahead goal, Boston had a chance for the equalizer, but Tannor Johnson’s up-line toss soared too far for Ben Sadok. That Glory duo combined for 104 completions, over 1,100 total yards, nine assists, and four goals, but the final connection they sought to potentially force overtime never came to fruition. “Credit to Boston for playing an excellent offensive game and not giving our D too many beak opportunities, but we made plays in the game to win,” said veteran Flyer Josh Hartzog. “Noah was huge for us in the fourth quarter and played great on both O and D.”
There were no playoff implications in Seattle on Saturday evening, but it was still a bit surprising to see the San Jose Spiders steamroll the Seattle Cascades in the second half underneath the Space Needle. Up 11-9 at halftime, the Spiders outscored Seattle 12-6 in the last two quarters to snap their four-game losing streak and earn their third win of the year, 23-15. “Keenan Laurence had a master class performance,” said San Jose Head Coach Dan Silverstein. “He was unstoppable and committed very few errors. He brought a passion and intensity as our captain that carried us to a strong second half; Seattle only scored three points in the final 17 minutes of the game.” What exactly got into Laurence, the 20-year-old who finished with five goals, two assists, and 306 receiving yards? For one thing, he made a conscious choice to change his on-field demeanor. “I’m usually a really nice guy on the field, always chatting it up with the other team, throwing out compliments and high-fives, but not this weekend,” said Laurence. “I was playing with more anger than I have ever played with before. I got tired of losing after our Texas road trip last weekend.” Heading into Week 11, the Spiders and Cascades both have three wins in the West Division cellar, though San Jose has three games left, while Seattle has just one. The Cascades will seek quick revenge and a 2-2 season series split when they head to Oakland this weekend. “We’d love to finish the season off 6-6, but moreso, we really want to see our young players dominate and succeed,” said Silverstein. “We believe there’s a strong future for the Spiders.”
Up in Canada, the Montreal Royal registered their first multi-win weekend since June of 2015 by dispatching Toronto and Ottawa in relatively impressive fashion! The Royal recorded 28 blocks and converted 25-of-28 red zone chances to prevail 18-16 against the Rush on Saturday and 22-18 over the Outlaws on Sunday. “A couple of gritty wins,” said Montreal vet Kevin Quinlan. “For both games, it really felt like it was more of things starting to come together on our end than anything we did particularly different. We have a lot of new young pieces that are only going to get more confident with more games.” Christophe Tremblay-Joncas stood out with his defensive effort, contributing three blocks against the Rush and four more at the Outlaws. Offensively, French cutter Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky scored 14 goals in the two games, drawing obvious comparisons to Quentin Bonnaud, who led the AUDL with 83 goals in 2019 but has not been able to play thus far in 2021. “Something in the water over there in France,” said Quinlan. “Lanky boys that can find the end zone. Sach is just a hard worker that will grind defenders down.” Jakob Brissette, a 21-year-old handler, also enjoyed an eye-popping statistical weekend for the Royal with 1,111 throwing yards and 13 assists. Notably, Ottawa’s Nick Boucher, who threw for 1,230 yards in his first two games, did not play in the Outlaw’s first loss of the season. Meanwhile, the Toronto Rush are now 0-2 for the first time franchise history, but the Rush have not played a home game yet. Toronto returns to Varsity Stadium for a home twin-bill this weekend, hosting the Royal on Saturday and the Outlaws on Sunday.
Ultimate players, even at the highest level, cannot avoid silly irony. More often, they pride themselves on a goofy team gimmick, sometimes the more absurd the better.
After the Roughnecks first win against San Jose on Saturday, July 17, which at the time improved the team to 5-4, the team amusingly adopted the the ironic rallying phrase #AgainstAllOdds. Considering that Dallas was regularly forecast as the preseason favorites across the whole league, there was more than a little snark to the hashtag, but it also recognized the adversity they had experienced throughout the season with key players constantly getting hurt.
“It’s a reference to the 2016 Roughnecks, when they were easily the best team in the league and were just destroying teams,” said Matt Armour, who first suited up for Dallas in 2018. “They got it printed on a bunch of practice discs as a joke, because they weren’t really facing any odds. But now, it’s a tongue-in-cheek way of addressing all the misfortunate we’ve had this season, while also affirming to each other our next-man-up mentality.”
Even with all the injuries, the Roughnecks were still the betting favorite on Saturday night in Austin, and they very well might be road favorites in San Diego for the West final. But despite that reality, Dallas plans to keep embracing the #AgainstAllOdds mindset, even if they also enter the home stretch with renewed confidence.
“We’ll be underdogs the rest of the way,” said Armour, “but I don’t think there’s a team in the league that has our mental toughness. It doesn’t matter which 20 guys we end up bringing to San Diego, we’ll be ready for a fight. Not literally.”