The 2023 regular season came to a close just a few weeks ago, and for Madison Radical fans, it was not the season they hoped it to be.
The Radical faithful came into the season with one of the best rosters on paper. They had defensive phenoms in two-time all-star Kevin Pettit-Scantling (KPS) and Sterling Knoche. The legend Brain Hart was making his return to the frisbee field, and their young core was showing promise.
However, a knee injury knocked KPS out for the season before it had even begun. Knoche was dealing with a hamstring injury most of the season, and Hart was dealing with a variety of injuries in his return year. To add salt to the wound, in the first game of the year, top cutter Jack Nelson went down with a knee injury that held him out for the year.
The injuries did allow for some young guys to step into some major roles. You saw rookies Joe Leibforth and Anthony “Gumby” Gutowsky really shine when given the opportunity. Ted Schewe and Henry Goldenberg were given the keys to the handler offense right behind veteran Victor Luo. The injury bug even brought assistant coach Pat Shriwise back to play during home games.
“I think the first thing that comes to mind is that we've just had a lot of ups and downs. We had to figure out a way to stay steady. We started gaining more momentum, a little more belief across lines,” said Luke Marks. “A lot more patience with the disc. I think our greatest thing that we built throughout the end of this season was just playing a little looser, like enjoying the game.”
The inexperience really came back to haunt Madison in some big time moments. Whether it be end of quarter or end of half breakdowns, giving up a run late in the game or being too trigger happy with the disc, it resulted in the Radicals finishing with their worst record in team history at 4-8. That porous record put them at fifth in the Central Division, finishing only above the 0-12 Detroit Mechanix.
No matter how head coach Tim DeByl did the lineups. No matter what plays he called or points he tried to emphasize, the Radicals never really put it all together. The theme of the year can be seen in their point differential on the season, sitting at a plus three. It was heart-breaking loss after heart-breaking loss, and that started from the very beginning.
The year began with a trip to Pittsburgh in which they saw the win ripped from their hands when Max Sheppard jumped over two Radical defenders to win the game at the buzzer. A couple weeks later, in a similar fashion, Cameron Brock took home the game-winning score with just seconds remaining.
The following week, the home opener was relatively disappointing when Madison fell apart in the fourth quarter and lost the Chicago Union by two. DeByl’s crew were able to get revenge on Pittsburgh the following week when they beat them by five at Breese Stevens Field.
The bulk of the season was where the depletion happened. A loss by one to the Wind Chill in Minnesota started the snowball effect. Following that were home losses by five and one to the Wind Chill and the Indianapolis AlleyCats, respectively. After that, a flip in sequence provided two more losses to the AlleyCats and Wind Chill in that order.
“I'm actually pretty excited for the team. We were grinding, and in every game. We are really looking forward to next year,” said Daniel Garlock. “Obviously the season didn't shape up the way we wanted, but everyone kept a cool head about it and brought their energy to every practice and every game.”
The losing streak put them down at 1-8 on the season with just three games remaining. Two games against a winless Detroit and a game that had nothing on the line for the Union put the Radicals in good position to end a win streak. That’s exactly what they did. They went on a three-game win streak to end the season, beating opponents out by a score of 63-43.
“We came out strong [against Chicago], they punched back and we didn't drag our heads. We just punched them right back,” said Wilson.
Even with the record being as bad as it was, it doesn’t mean there weren’t bright spots in such a young team. Rookie of the year candidate Anthony Gutowsky made his mark by leading the team with 37 goals throughout the season, including a six goal performance against Indy. He also added 1636 receiving yards to his rookie campaign.
Luo continued his consistent career numbers and lead role on this offense and on the team. Luo almost broke the 3,000 throwing yards mark in back-to-back seasons, fell short, but still led the team with 2936 yards. Playing in just ten games, Luo managed 22 assists, eight goals and four blocks.
Goldenberg and Schewe continued their case to be high volume players going forward with both reaching the marks of 19 assists, 2500 throwing yards and 1300 receiving yards. On the defensive side, there were flashes shown of the tried and true form of the historical Radical defense.
Kai DeLorenzo led the team with 13 blocks on the season, with Andrew Meshnick and Jake Carrico each having ten apiece. Leibforth obtained eight blocks in his rookie season, most of them being layout blocks in big moments. The Radicals were able to get five callahans in a rule change year that came from the likes of Carrico, Gutowsky, Kelsen Alexander and two from Meshnick (second time a player record multiple in a season).
“I am so excited about our season. I'm happy with it. Despite what the outcome was with our season, all the games are in the books and we had a blast,” said Leibforth. “We grew every single game. Coming into my rookie season, I was really happy with how I played.”
With a down year, look for DeByl and crew to come back healthy and with a vengeance in 2024. They will look to return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the championship back in 2018.