2014 Nationals, Day 1

Back in Frisco, Texas for another shot at the USAU Triple Crown!
The morning started off cold and wet at the fields as we warmed up to face New York’s PoNY in a rematch from pool play last year. Our focuses: flat marks to stop hucks, and getting our defensive intensity up to the nationals level. PoNY came out a little cold in the first few points, with early throwaways leading to two quick breaks and a Ryo/Martin combo deep block setting us up for a third. We took half 8-5 after a few points of trading, and picked up where we left off out of the second half with two or three more breaks – rookie Greg Cohen supplying a number of goals & assists. Our offense was looking smooth as the breeze started to pick up, although an errant swing gave PoNY a late break to bring it to 13-9 before we finished out the 15-10 win.

Our next game was against newcomer Prairie Fire out of Kansas City, fresh off their upset of Doublewide. We knew that they had a bunch of athletic younger players and good deep throwers and knew we would have to battle in the air. The game started sloppily, with several quick turns by their offense followed by immediate turnovers by our defensive line. They eventually converted and then quickly capitalized on a turfed Revolver throw to take an early break. The wind continued to rise throughout the first half, making the game upwind/downwind, and true to expectations they came down with a number of floating hucks over our defenders. Despite our best efforts on the mark and tight dump defense (and several attempts to mix o-line players into the defense), their athleticism and well-placed hucks stymied our defense in the first half – after getting our one break back early in the game, we could only trade out to 7-7. On this last point of the half, a strong defensive line earned several turns and finally the break to go up 8-7. From then on, our defense started to roll, getting several more goals out of half as their offense started to tire and our defense offense started to get into sync. After a tense and tight first half, we ended up with another 15-10 victory.

After relaxing in the shade during our third round bye, we faced Doublewide with first place in the pool still up for grabs. Despite the importance of the game, it had a somewhat low-key (low-intensity?) feel (e.g. at one point a Doublewide player threw it between the legs of his mark). At this point the wind was moderately strong and still upwind/downwind, leading to some line-calling experimentation from coach Mike Payne. Our first break featured our offense playing on D going upwind, forcing three turnovers and eventually punching in the break. The D-line responded with the downwinder (although it took us two chances…) to take half 8-6. As sometimes happens, we fell into something of a lull here – our defense didn’t play with much intensity, and it seemed like we would be content to (or perhaps expected to) trade out to 15. Of course, Doublewide wasn’t interested, and broke upwind & downwind to tie it at 10. The soft cap went on shortly after, and it fell to our O-line to stand strong and unblinking, scoring two more downwind points (Robbie Cahill with a deep d to stop a break on the first; Joel Schlachet streaking to his favorite cone for the second) to secure the 13-12 victory. The observers in this game (and across the whole tournament) were liberal with the new Technical Misconduct Fouls (profanity, rushing the field, etc) – Chris ‘Bris’ Kosednar picked up three by himself and we were moved back to the reverse brick on one point as a result.
Bracket play starts tomorrow with more 2013 rematches – Furious George in prequarters and a potential matchup against SubZero (or GOAT) waiting for the winner.