August 3, 2021
By Evan Lepler
Two months into the regular season, three-quarters of the way through our 12-week journey, the first two postseason tickets were punched this past weekend.
The Chicago Union and the Atlanta Hustle, a pair of franchises with exactly one all-time playoff win between them, officially secured their reservations into the playoffs, each with their own five-goal victory in Week 9. On Friday in Madison, the Union outscored the Radicals 10-4 over the final 15 minutes with perhaps their finest stretch of ultimate Chicago has played all season. One night later in Atlanta, the Hustle trailed 1-0, but that was before Austin Taylor took the field. Atlanta’s Draco Malfoy lookalike launched a 74-yard scoring shot to Antoine Davis on the very next play, setting the tone for Taylor’s absurd nine-assist, 956-yard night, and the Hustle never trailed again.
Chicago and Atlanta both still have regular season work to do in pursuit of hosting a playoff game, but they know they are in the final eight, just one win away from a coveted trip to Championship Weekend.
Beyond the playoff clinchers, Week 9 drama included three different one-goal outcomes, all wild and heart-stopping down the final buzzer. Elsewhere, the Raleigh Flyers won their sixth consecutive game, a streak they will put on the line in Boston and New York this coming weekend. The Los Angeles Aviators, 1-5 through seven weeks, impressively earned their third straight victory, while the DC Breeze, two weeks after their home loss to the Hustle, also rediscovered the winning feeling by throttling Philadelphia. And then there was the Detroit Mechanix, with their outrageous 46-game losing streak, actually holding a slim halftime lead over Madison. A 9-2 third quarter for the Radicals, however, evolved into another eight-goal drubbing for Detroit, as their endless odyssey of defeat reached 47. (The Mechanix will need to beat either Chicago or Minnesota over their final three games to avoid experiencing a 50th consecutive loss. Yowzers.)
So yea, Week 9 had plenty of action, though it all feels relatively small compared to what we’re about to witness in Austin, Texas this Saturday night.
The Full Field Layout
The 20th ever meeting between the Dallas Roughnecks and the Austin Sol, slated for this Saturday night in the Texas capital, will easily be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry. In all likelihood, the survivor will head to San Diego to compete for a spot at Championship Weekend, while the loser will spend the offseason searching for answers about what might have been.
That dichotomy, representing the magic and madness of sports, will be on display for the world to witness.
After dropping 15 out of 16 games against the Roughnecks from 2016-19 and watching several of their most notable names defect to Dallas along the way, the Austin Sol earned wins over their big brother in each of the first two meetings this season. Both victories were by just one goal, but they sure showed that the Sol were ready to compete. Without a crazy late comeback and fluky deflection in the third matchup, Austin would currently be 3-0 against Dallas, already assured of the playoffs, but the Roughnecks’ depth, mystique, and flare for the moment conspired into a one-goal overtime victory in the last matchup against the Sol.
Consequently, with Dallas at 7-4 and Austin at 6-5, everything rides on the regular season finale. Everyone knows what’s at stake. Even more meaningfully, everyone knows each other, as the connections between the two teams are vast, complex, and forever intertwined.
And as you would expect, both sides are projecting confidence, optimism, and belief.
But how will they all handle the pressure?
“I’m less nervous than I thought I’d be,” said Austin Head Coach Steven Naji. “More so just ready to compete. We should have an electric crowd on hand…Our best game is still in front of us, and I hope that can happen on Saturday.”
To ensure that their regular season finale would carry such significant weight, the Sol entered Week 9 needing a home victory over San Jose. Austin responded with a dominant performance, recording 12 breaks as they routed the Spiders, 25-15.
“We knew starting last week it was win or go home for the rest of the season,” said Sol Rookie Hayden Stone. “We kinda like when our backs are against the wall because that’s when we feel we play our best. The San Diego game had left such a sour taste in our mouth as well, so we were just amped to get back out on the pitch.”
Paul Starkel dished seven assists, Eric Brodbeck scored six goals, and 23-year-old Chris Layden, making his AUDL debut, earned the praise of his teammates by recording two blocks and making a difference on D. Austin closed the first half on a 4-0 spurt to lead 13-7 and the Spiders never got closer than five in the second half.
“I had never played in Texas before, and obviously everyone talks about the heat, but you never really know until you’re out there on the field,” said San Jose’s Jordan Kerr, who produced a game-high 502 yards. “I’d never played in a heat like that before, and that definitely came with some challenges.”
Visiting teams dipped to 1-6 in Texas this season with San Jose’s lopsided Saturday setback, but the Spiders reemerged with a renewed vigor in Dallas on Sunday. Less than four minutes in, San Jose led 3-0, and the Spiders held a 9-6 edge at halftime following a couple quarters that the Roughnecks were eager to forget.
“The first half I think was the worst half of ultimate the Roughnecks have ever played,” said Dillon Larberg, who’s been on the team since the organization’s inaugural 2016 season. “Our O-line struggled more than they have been, not connecting despite low winds and a more tired San Jose defense. Our defense was also pretty soft.”
Frustrated by their performance, the Roughnecks did swing the momentum in the second half, beginning the third and fourth quarters with a pair of 4-1 rallies. Dallas had a 15-14 lead and possession with 51 seconds left, but obviously nothing about this Roughnecks season has been easy. After a turn, Ben Lewis recorded his team-high 16th block of the season to narrowly preserve the one-goal win.
“Biggest momentum-shifter for me was halftime,” said Larberg, who finished the game with five assists and three blocks. “We all got under the tent and were just frank with each other.”
Certainly, two of the important voices in that halftime huddle were Dalton Smith and Zach Marbach, both veteran team leaders who suited up on Sunday after combining to play just one point in the Roughnecks’ first 10 games.
“We had some real honest conversations at halftime, made some adjustments, and did what we needed to do to right the ship in the second half and come away with the win,” said Marbach.
Smith, who missed the first two months of the season rehabbing a calf injury, threw for a game-high 307 yards while recording two assists and two blocks in his first appearance of the year. San Jose’s Kerr delivered his second 300-yard-throwing performance of the weekend, but he and his teammates could not escape Texas with a win.
“Our entire team stepped up that game and we proved to ourselves that we have the potential to hang with the best teams in the league,” said Kerr. “Credit to Dallas, though, they simply wanted it more than we did. The fourth quarter [slide] wasn’t due to the heat. The heat was present the entire game…We had a lead going into the fourth, and we just need to dial it in when it really matters.”
With the past couple months in the rear-view, what really matters now is the result of this Saturday’s battle in Austin. Whatever the outcome, it’s a tilt that will not only dictate a postseason berth but also set the course of the Texas ultimate conversation until next spring.
“These games always have the odd dynamic of club teammates on different teams, current and former college teammates split, and players living in a different city than they play in,” said Austin’s Bob Lewis. “I laugh every time I imagine explaining all the cross-team connections to a non-frisbee fan. Both teams know each other well. Both teams have injuries. It’ll be a mental test more than a physical one. I like our chances and can’t wait to see what my friend and college captain, Dalton Smith, has been hiding up his sleeve all year.”
Neither side is lacking confidence. Of course, it may be more accurate to say that neither side is projecting any lack of confidence.
“I genuinely think we are one of, if not the, best teams in the league,” said Larberg. “I think we have the depth, skill, and experience to win it all. Up to this point, I don’t think any of our losses have been because of an inability to keep up with the other team. We just need to play our game, stick to our plan, and execute.”
Back in mid-April, I declared that the single game I was most excited about for the entire season was set for Saturday, August 7. At the time, I was hyping Raleigh at New York, the only regular season meeting between the Flyers and Empire. Four days out, I am still super pumped for that Atlantic Division showdown, a rematch of their exhilarating double overtime classic from 2019 that could very well be a playoff preview or maybe even a potential championship matchup. Inevitably, we will learn a lot about the Atlantic landscape on Saturday night, in anticipation of the epic postseason that lies ahead.
But in Texas, that postseason is already here. Both teams have one game left, and the ultimate Gods have gifted us this marvelous stage, setting, and circumstances. The West Division playoffs are not big enough for both Dallas and Austin, and the rivalry, with all its friendships, bitterness, respect, and desire, will reach an unprecedented intensity on Saturday.
Whether you’ve got the Flyers-Empire on your television and the Roughnecks-Sol on your computer, or vice-versa, it absolutely will be a multi-screen evening on Saturday.
Here’s to both games delivering the drama, with perhaps an overtime or two between them.
Back to the Week 9 wackiness, which included Madison taking its first lead of the game with about three minutes left in the third. The Madison Radicals, who had trailed by two at halftime, were suddenly up 14-13 after Rami Paust’s scoober found Avery Johnson, and the Breese Stevens crowd was going bonkers.
But that electric atmosphere also included an unintended consequence: a former Radical, now playing for the other team, was inspired by it too.
“Breese has been and always will be my home field,” said Chicago’s Peter Graffy, who played six seasons with Madison, from 2014-19. “I think everything clicked down the stretch for me personally because of the crowd, venue, and that it was a close game."
"I was kind of coasting through the first half with low energy, but once the crowd fired up, there was some visceral reaction, like muscle memory, for me to kick into gear. After the Rads broke to go up 14-13 and the crowd went nuts is when the switch flipped for me. It wasn’t just me, though. I remember that Pat [Shriwise] delivered an absolute dime of a backhand to Ross [Barker] to even things up, which shows just how clutch he in pressure situations. Paul [Arters] also had a phenomenal game and was able to be a calming and steady presence for our team through the turbulence.”
Indeed, it was Shriwise and Barker, two more former Radicals, who collaborated on the equalizer late in the third. Graffy scored a goal and assisted on another to start the fourth, playing five straight points spanning the final quarters to help Chicago significantly swing the momentum. The Union overpowered Madison with a brilliant 5-0 run that all-but ended the Radicals postseason hopes.
“The shift in momentum was sudden,” said Madison Captain Kevin Pettit-Scantling. “We went up by one and found ourselves down by three minutes later…I remember watching our O-line beat Chicago’s D-line, it’s armor chipped and cracking. Then Von [Alanguilan] flew into the picture with a huge block. We started cracking then.”
Considering the circumstances, opponent, and atmosphere, Chicago’s last 12-15 minutes on Friday night felt like the Union’s greatest sequence of the season.
“The last quarter was one of our best, for sure,” said Graffy, who finished the game with two goals, two assists, and two blocks. “We ended the game ecstatic about clinching a playoff spot and also recognizing that there is a lot of work still to do. There’s still quite a bit of chemistry to build between players, and if we truly want to beat teams like New York or Atlanta, then we’ll need to convert at a higher rate than we did in this past game. When we learn how to take our fourth quarter in Madison and play the other three quarters that way is when we become a team that will win a championship.”
At 8-2, the Union can clinch a home playoff game by taking care of business in their final two games, both against winless Detroit.
And on Saturday night, the Minnesota Wind Chill kept pace with Chicago. Barely.
Minnesota led Indianapolis 16-12 through three windy quarters, but the Wind Chill’s struggles in the tempestuous conditions nearly cost them dearly in the fourth. The AlleyCats scored two straight to begin the period, but Minnesota still led by three when Dylan DeClerk’s laser flick found Jordan Taylor with 1:42 remaining.
The AlleyCats converted their downwind opportunity with 51 seconds left to inch within two, scored an upwind break 30 seconds later to get within one, and then came absurdly close to cashing in the equalizer at the buzzer.
“The last 20 seconds, I just felt disbelief,” said Minnesota’s Andrew Roy. “Are we actually in danger of losing this game, one which we have no business losing? How did we get here? That’s where my head was at, watching those crazy final plays, at least.”
After four quick completions, Minnesota’s Brett Hidaka lost possession with about 10 seconds left, precariously close to the Wind Chill’s goal-line. Indy’s Nick Hutton pounced, and saw the opportunity to shockingly tie the game.
“As soon as the disc touched the turf, I knew we had to move it quickly and knew with how many throws they got off we had roughly 10 seconds,” said Hutton. “B-Von [Bryan Vohnoutka] got a good block on a throw I thought I had to Carter Rae, and I just reacted.”
Amazingly, Hutton heroically laid out to catch the disc that Vohnoutka had swatted, somehow maintaining possession on the brink of the end zone, but precious seconds continued to tick away.
“My initial thought was to drop it into Carter’s hands since I knew we had little time left and he was a so close to me—I literally tapped him on the head with the disc so he would turn around,” said Hutton. “The Minnesota defenders were able to close really quickly, and I was essentially left with no time to stand up and a double team closing in on me. I never got a look at the clock because it was on the opposite side of the field. I saw Mason Zetsch in the back of the end zone and put the disc up in the air without really knowing which way he was cutting. I thought I gave it enough air for there to be a chance, but the wind got under it and took it a little further than I anticipated.”
Somehow, the Wind Chill survived one of the craziest game-concluding sequences of the entire season, prevailing 17-16 to improve to 7-2. But if you asked any Minnesota folks about the postgame feeling, the response was understandably less than positive.
“It absolutely felt like a dissatisfied escape from a game we played below our standards in and one we were lucky to get the win,” said Roy, who remarkably completed all 59 of his throws in a the windy conditions that produced 53 combined turnovers between the two teams. “I am still confident that we are a very talented team that can win big games and play at a high level, but it starts with bringing energy and raising our level of offensive execution that has been subpar of late, especially in windy conditions.”
One aspect that should not be overlooked or glazed over was Vohnoutka nearly coming up with the game-saving block on the mark for the second time this year, a leaping deflection on Hutton’s initial throw in the last 10 seconds that was eerily similar to the unforgettable D he got on Madison Daniel Garlock back on June 4 with two seconds left.
“Oh the Garlock block, I figured it was a likely a hammer or blade and knew it was going to be above my head,” Vohnoutka remembered. “It was just a split second reaction trying to mirror his movement. This one was different. Once Nick Hutton picked up the disc, I saw Daka take Zetsch, and out of the corner of my eye I saw another player, I think it was Carter Rae, and he slipped behind me in to the end zone. I feel like I almost baited that throw, as I figured it was going to be a high-release backhand based on his grip and time running down. I waited for him to start the motion and against tried to time it up. I still don’t know if that disc was up or down, at the time I thought it was down, but I still can’t tell with photos and video. Kudos to Nick Hutton for getting back to it and still almost completing the tie.”
The Wind Chill have a week off before embarking on a road doubleheader to Detroit and Indy before closing their season at home against Madison.
“I think this upcoming road trip is just what we need,” added Vohnoutka. “A weekend with the team to grind through some games and the camaraderie and shared experiences that really brings teams together.”
The only one-loss team in the league—not including the Canadian trio of teams—continues to be the Atlanta Hustle, who have their second four-game winning streak of the season following their 27-22 triumph over Pittsburgh. The entire Hustle O-line put up whopping numbers, scoring on 80 percent of their offensive possessions, a season-best. Antoine Davis, Matt Smith, Karl Ekwurtzel, and Tanner Robinson all had huge days, but no one shined brighter than Austin Taylor, the Hustle captain who has elevated his all-around game to a new superstar level.
“[Austin] has speed, accuracy, strength, and the awareness to see the whole field,” said Robinson. “He mentally never takes a point off and is always focused. The way he plays takes a lot of pressure off everyone too; he’s poised, and the moment is never to big. He’s everything you could want in a captain and is a big part of why the Hustle are where we are right now.”
Taylor had averaged a mighty respectable 287 throwing yards per game in his first eight appearances this year, but the Alabama-product exploded for 732 throwing yards against the Thunderbirds, completing 46 of his 47 throws, nine of which went for assists. His scoring passes went to six different receivers, and Taylor finished with 956 total yards, the highest total of anyone in the league this year aside from Nick Boucher’s Ottawa outburst in Week 8.
“He was connecting on hucks throughout the game, throwing cross-field forehand dimes, and peppering the break side end zone cone with around backhands,” said Atlanta’s Parker Bray, who primarily played D-line for the first time this year but still caught one of Taylor’s nine scoring tosses. “Oh, and I nearly forgot that cheeky little scoober. It’s been a ton of fun to have him as a captain and watch him thrive as the primary distributor on O.”
With Taylor—who Atlanta Head Coach Miranda Knowles has called one of her all-time favorite players—leading the way, the Hustle finished with a season-low six turnovers against the Thunderbirds. Atlanta preserved possession while also completing 14 hucks in 16 tries; the 14 successful hucks matches the most any U.S. team has had in any game this season.
“At the beginning of the game, Coach Knowles challenged us to elevate our play, to be great, not good,” said Bray. “I reckon the sentiment came from a few weeks earlier when we didn’t take Philly seriously enough after a game the night before with Raleigh, just like Pitt was doing. We jumped out to a six-point lead in the first half and had the luxury of experimenting with a few things in the second half. Give credit to the offense and the likes of Will [Lindquist], two or three awesome box-out grabs, Matt, as springy and goal-scoring as ever, and Tanner, holy-moly did you see that toe-in grab, for only being broken twice all game. [Our offense] played their best game of the season, hands down.”
Seven On The Line
- One night before the Hustle handled the Thunderbirds, the Raleigh Flyers executed with similar efficiency in their 20-17 victory over Pittsburgh.
“They were playing under on really good deep cutters, and if a team’s do that, we’re gonna punish them,” said Raleigh Head Coach Mike DeNardis. “Our deep game’s gonna click if team’s play Henry [Fisher] or [Jacob] Fairfax even.” Fisher had his best game of the season with six goals and three assists, while Allan Laviolette produced four goals, seven assists, and a game-high 557 yards. “This game was the culmination of a few weeks worth of work in creating good throwing lanes and deep cutting opportunities with a new offensive unit,” said Laviolette. After six straight wins, the 6-2 Flyers finish their season with matchups against Boston, New York, Atlanta, and DC, with three of those four on the road, starting with the doubleheader trip this weekend. While Raleigh still has plenty to prove, the Flyers are the only team in the league that hasn’t been beaten by multiple goals all season; both of their early losses came by just one. “I think the team has matured and figured itself out a lot over the course of this season,” said Fisher. “We had an abrupt start after a long hiatus, and that always affects a team’s identity and chemistry. Honestly, we lost the first two games by a very small margin, and I think that’s just a reflection of the very, very tight competition that’s going on at the top of the Atlantic. I think any game between the top four can go either direction really easily. Hopefully, we can get some wins over New York, Atlanta, and DC to prove that we belong in that circle. I certainly think we are talented enough.”
- As the Flyers prepare for the Empire, New York will return home following a 25-18 road victory over Tampa Bay, an encouraging result especially considering the Empire offense was missing Elliott Chartock and Ryan Osgar, two of New York’s key playmakers. Without them, a guy named Ben Jagt—perhaps you’ve heard of him—caught seven goals, dished five assists, and tallied two blocks, producing a +13 performance. Veteran Empire defender Ryan Drost also enjoyed a huge day, matching his career-high with five blocks, while also scoring three goals and throwing one assist. “[Tampa Bay] definitely just threw me the disc several times,” said Drost, who ranks fourth all-time in AUDL history with 162 blocks. “Wish I could take more credit for playing really well, but I did feel just about full strength, so that was good.” It was Drost’s first game since July 9, as he had been dealing with a minor quad injury that prevented him from playing in Atlanta. Interestingly, the only game that he missed back in 2019 was New York’s trip to Raleigh, so the almost 32-year-old—Ryan and his twin-brother, Mike, will celebrate their birthdays on Friday—will get his first shot personally against the Flyers on Saturday night. “Definitely looking forward to the Raleigh game since, yes, I did miss the game last time around,” he said. “We should have pretty much everyone there, I think. [It’s a] very important game if we want a chance to still have a home playoff game.”
- The other Atlantic Division powerhouse also dominated on Saturday night, as the DC Breeze stormed to a 6-2 first quarter lead before taking a 12-6 edge into the half against Philadelphia. The Breeze won the third and fourth quarters too, cruising to a 22-12 triumph over the Phoenix.
“The main focus was to really get back to our roots,” said DC’s Rhys Bergeron, who led the Breeze with three blocks. “Offensively, that meant being more patient and nor forcing any throws like we did against Atlanta. Defensively, it’s about bringing the heat from the start and valuing possession. Strategically, the game plan was about forcing Philly to their third and fourth options to create turns. While we certainly had some highlight-reel plays, a lot of their turns came from pressure in the reset space and lockdown D downfield.” Aside from his own performance, Rhys was also thrilled to see his younger brother, Colum, score his first career AUDL goal with a massive sky late in the second quarter. The youngest Bergeron, who was playing just his second pro game and only recorded 42 total yards in his first, also led all Breeze D-liners with 235 total yards in the double-digit win. “All the Bergeron brothers work so hard, and I know Colum had been itching for an opportunity to show off his talents,” said Joe Richards, who registered four goals in DC’s latest victory. “Ben Green also had a crazy layout block on our sideline that seemed so nonchalant because that is just what he does.” At 6-2 and in second-place in the Atlantic behind Atlanta, the Breeze embark on a Pennsylvania journey in Week 10, rematching with Philly on Friday before traveling to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee. “[Head Coach] Darryl [Stanley] set the tone for this week, demanding [that we] prepare like we just lost our game to Philly,” said Rhys. “So it’s back to the grindstone for the Breeze."
- Seattle brought a strong roster and a feisty energy to its SoCal road trip, but the Cascades still found themselves down 20-16 on Saturday in San Diego midway through the fourth. The Growlers had a chance to salt away a comfortable home win, but San Diego’s style all season long has been consistently inconsistent.
“We have been talking for weeks about how we need to put together a complete four-quarter game on O and D, and unfortunately, we still have not yet accomplished that,” said Growlers veteran Steven Milardovich. The Cascades clawed back within one, scoring with 1:43 remaining to make it 21-20. Then, after 11 San Diego completions, Travis Dunn and Lior Givol were not on the same page, and Dunn’s flick toward the end zone landed incomplete. The Cascades called timeout with just under a minute remaining, plenty of time for a potential equalizing opportunity. “On the final point, I remember feeling pretty relaxed as the O-line subbed into the game on a timeout,” said Seattle’s Manny Eckert, who threw for 500 yards and five assists on the night. “I was confident in my and my teammates’ abilities to get open against their defense, and in the end, we did have a great shot to tie it. When the throw left Marc’s hand, it looked good for a moment, then just seemed to levitate as the wind kept it afloat.” Intended for Seattle’s Brad Houser, Milardovich rose up for the game-sealing deflection, his 120th career block, 11th most in AUDL history, which preserved the 21-20 Growlers victory. “We’ve seen it many times before, but it never gets old watching Steven make a game-changing, or in this case, game-saving block,” said Dunn, who contributed four assists, two goals, and only the one throwing blemish with a minute to go. “[Milardovich] always comes up big in big moments.” Indeed, it was his third block of the game, the 15th time in Milardovich’s career that he’s registered at least three blocks in a contest. At 7-2, the Growlers need only one win in their final three games to lock up the top spot in the West and the accompanying home playoff game.
The Cascades were disappointed but far from demoralized following their Saturday setback. “There were plenty of positive takeaways that we could focus on,” said Eckert, “especially when we have struggled mightily on the road in the past. On Sunday [in Los Angeles], we started out with a lot of energy with multiple early breaks from our D-lines and just ran out of steam in the second half.” The Aviators, on the other hand, felt they came out flat, but ramped up their intensity as the game progressed. After Seattle led 5-3 through one quarter, Los Angeles outscored the Cascades 17-10 the rest of the way, rolling to a 20-15 victory, the Aviators’ third consecutive win, and a streak that coincides with 20-year-old Calvin Brown shifting over to D-line for the first time this season. “He’s piled up blocks, and the chemistry he has with his college teammates, KJ [Koo], Matt Miller, and Seamus Robinson makes it a lot easier to move the disc once they force a turn,” said Jake Baumer, LA’s Assistant Coach who took the helm on Sunday with Head Coach Jeff Landesman unavailable. Brown finished the game with three assists, one goal, five blocks and 618 total yards, while Koo—also just 20-years-old—contributed four assists, two goals, three blocks, and 321 total yards. Eckert dished 62 more completions on Sunday for 378 throwing yards and four assists, but the Cascades still finished the weekend empty-handed in the win department. “Reflecting on the weekend, it’s clear we’re already a talented team, but with lots of room for improvement,” said Eckert. “This season has seemed like a transition for the Cascades, from a non-factor to a team that could contend if we’re able to maintain our roster going into the next season and improve our consistency and fundamentals.” Meanwhile, the Aviators, winners of three straight, are not ready to think about next year quite yet. “We believe we can run the table,” said Baumer. “[Michael] Kiyoi downright predicted it on the podcast. We are confident we can beat San Jose again, and we know San Diego so well that every game vs. them is a toss up.”
So what exactly happened in Detroit on Saturday, with the Mechanix leading Madison at halftime? “I saw the most complete Detroit team I’ve seen since 2013,” said Kevin Pettit-Scantling. “Those men have bought into a system, or at the very least, are willing to put it to the test. I spoke to [Detroit Coach/Owner] Brent [Steepe] earlier in the week and he informed me to watch out because their group had something planned. They sure did. I’m excited to see how that group evolves.” Detroit led 5-2 early and 9-8 at the half before everything unraveled in the third. “We managed to get by after some reframing at halftime,” added KPS. “We shed the fear of losing to Detroit and simply executed better in transition offense. That, paired with a more perfect O-line conversion rate, pulled us out.” Madison improved to 4-0 in their second game of a weekend this season, but the Radicals 7-4 overall record puts them in the unenviable spot of needing Detroit’s help. The Radicals only chance to make the playoffs involves the Wind Chill dropping both games of their upcoming road trip to Detroit and Indy. If that were to transpire, then Madison’s finale in Minnesota would likely be for the last playoff spot. While the Radicals are not expecting the Mechanix or AlleyCats to upend Minnesota, they still are putting significant value on their August 22 matchup against the Wind Chill, regardless of what’s at stake. “What sounds better, Madison Radicals 8-4 with 100 wins, or Madison Radicals 7-5 with 99?” KPS asked, rhetorically. “One of those pushes the envelope and motivates guys to buy in again. I’m going to make sure that happens.”
Well, after home teams went 12-17 over the previous three weekends, they rebounded by going 8-3 in Week 9, with only Chicago, Madison, and New York earning road wins. As I noted on twitter, it was a strange week with all 11 favorites winning, but only four of them covering the spread (as set by DraftKings). The one dynamic that has continued all season long has been the West Division giving us great games. Through nine weeks, 16 of the 28 West contests have been decided by three or less. Four others have four-point games, and five others have been decided by five.
Back in Week 2, when the 2016 AUDL MVP made an impromptu cameo for the Atlanta Hustle in their win at Boston, Dylan Tunnell said that participating in the game was fun and special because he never thought he would have that chance again.
But the concept of retirement is a wide spectrum, and very few who love frisbee can resist an opportunity to lace up the cleats when that chance presents itself. Hustle Coach Miranda Knowles knew that her team would be shorthanded in Week 10, and she floated the idea for Tunnell to jump into lineup one more time. Apparently, he’s accepted.
Tunnell is expected to be back on the field for the Hustle against Tampa Bay this Saturday, and he’s not even gonna be the most surprising former AUDL MVP to return this weekend.
Out West, the San Diego Growlers were similarly seeking some roster reinforcements for Week 10. They reached out to former Growler Trevor Purdy, who agreed to bring his size and buzzer-beating brilliance back to the field this Saturday against Los Angeles.
More notably, San Diego also made overtures to former Flyer Jonathan Nethercutt, the 2017 AUDL MVP, and in a bizarre twist of fate, desperation, ingenuity, or whatever you wanna call it, the Growlers have signed Nethercutt for a cameo with the West Division leaders this weekend.
San Diego owner Will Griffin acknowledged that Nethercutt’s presence is likely just a one-game thing, but hey, that’s what Tunnell said too!
Between the Texas tussle, the Raleigh-New York battle, and a couple former MVPs reemerging to compete, the upcoming weekend might just become one of the most fascinating AUDL experiences of the season.
And if you’ve been following all summer long, you already know, that’s saying a lot.