Easterns Final: Pittsburgh v. Florida

by | March 22, 2011, 4:19pm 0

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Florida was going to fall off. Without Brodie and Chris, it wasn’t like Cole was going to shoulder the load, and Florida’s bench was a bunch of scrubs with barbeque backhands. After 2010, they were done.


Wrong. All weekend at College Easterns, Florida’s deep game was clicking, its defense was stingy, and its offense kept possession of the disc. With a 15-14 win over Pittsburgh in the final and a 6-1 record overall, Florida used Easterns to show that they have not gone anywhere.

Even more remarkably, Florida did all of this in the first half of the final without their offensive cornerstone. Cole Sullivan was sidelined until the second half due to a second Player Misconduct Foul that he was given in Florida’s semifinal against Carleton, leaving Alex Hill (who returned to the field after Sullivan’s ejection despite having broken his nose earlier in the game), Nathan Sage, and Alton Gaines to shoulder the offensive load.

While many expected this group to struggle when up against Pittsburgh’s tenacious defense, they did not, remaining poised and committed to keeping the disc alive on the dump and hitting taking deep chances when a teammate was open.

Florida was also helped in the first half by Pittsburgh’s decision not to throw a zone or force middle, strategies that may have forced Florida’s interim handlers to make more throws into difficult-to-hit spaces. While the teams went into half on serve at 8-7, Florida, Pittsburgh certainly missed its chance to earn a few breaks in Sullivan’s absence.

Out of half, Pittsburgh’s Alex Thorne stood out quite a bit, getting open at will and throwing give and goes all the way down the field. His work on Pitt’s first point, however, was for naught, as Florida converted a missed breakmark attempt on the endzone line into a break that made the score 9-7.

On the next point, Thorne pulled down a huge sky over the much bigger Sullivan to bring it to 9-8. He would continue to impress throughout the game, coming up with another layout catch for a score and consistently making difficult throws look easy.

At 11-9, Florida called timeout on the endzone line and earned another break after blocking Pittsburgh twice (the first was a Coleman Hoover layout and the second was a sky by Gaines on Pitt’s Tyler DeGirolamo). Throughout the weekend, no team used its timeouts as well as the Gators.

With the score at 13-11 and the  horn blowing to point cap the game at 13-11, Pittsburgh threw a zone that took them on a run, bringing the score to 14-14 and looking like they might steal the win.

With an upwind pull that landed halfway back in Florida’s endzone and very close to the sideline, Pittsburgh set a flick-forcing zone. Alex Hill picked up the disc, and while his teammates worked to find open space, Hill saw nothing that he liked and called a timeout.

The Pitt mark had said “stalling eight,” and the count would be coming in on “stalling nine.”

What happened out of the timeout was surreal. Required to set first because they were on offense, Florida lined up Gaines as Hill’s dump. Sullivan, Sage, Travis Catron, Glenn Lenberger, and Jeff Kale, were all 50 yards downfield.

With Pittsburgh setting up the same cup that the came down in, everybody knew what was coming. As the disc was tapped in, Hill stepped back, wound up, and let it fly.

The Easterns fields are surrounded by a group of huge light poles, all standing about 15 yards off of the sidelines. Earlier in the day, Colorado’s Jimmy Mickle had hit one with a pull, stopping Mamabird’s momentum in their quarterfinal game against Pitt.

As though it was designed for dramatic effect, Hill’s huck soared around the nearest light post and began to float down into a wolfpack of Gators and En Sabah Nur players that were jockeying for position.

At first, it looked as though Sullivan was going to make the grab. After all, he is known more for his ability to box out and will himself to a disc than he is for being a big leaper. When he jumped, though, Pitt’s DeGirolamo applied enough pressure to make Sullivan tip the disc but not bring it in.

Luckily for Florida, however, Sage was trailing the play and the disc floated easily into his hands; after catching it, an easy two-yard backhand to Catron made Florida the 2011 College Easterns Champions.

“Given all of the adversity we had, this win felt even better than usual,” said Florida’s Hill. “Nothing is going to come easily, but now we know we’re going to be there.”

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