A semifinals appearance at the Club Championships is a rare and prized accomplishment. A top four finish can be a stepping stone to a championship as it was for Jam and Chain Lightning. It can also be a short lived greatness, like Pike ‘04 or Goat ‘07. Doublewide has made the semis for the past two Championships in Sarasota, results which they’re hoping will become part of the former category, and not the latter.
Despite the steady presence of players like 11 year Doublewide vet Michael ‘Tank’ Natenberg and Max Cook in his 10th season, the current iteration of the team arguably began in 2010 when Kurt Gibson joined the team. Before Gibson, now a Doublewide captain, Austin had missed quarters in Sarasota for two of the previous three seasons. That was after missing the Championships all together in 2006, the year Gibson and current first year DW player Tim Gehret were winning a collegiate championship at Florida.
Along with gaining Gibson’s spectacular on-field prowess, his arrival brought a pipeline of Florida alumni that now populate Doublewide’s famous Gator D-line. Gehret, Brodie Smith, Cole Sullivan and Kurt’s brother Chris immediately elevated the talent level of team that had already finished fifth in 2009. Most importantly, however, is that each one of these men brought championship experience.
Doublewide has historically been anchored by Texas TUFF alumni like Tank, Jeff Loskorn and Stephen ‘Franchise’ Presley. TUFF has a reputation of success qualifying for 9 of the past 11 College Championships, but has often lost in the quarter finals. All five Florida alumni won a championship while in college, and on the biggest of stages that perspective can make all the difference. The drive towards a championship in 2012 for Doublewide takes them through new regional rival Johnny Bravo on Thursday.
“We expect the first day to be as difficult as it has ever been for us,” says Kurt Gibson. “We have a couple very solid teams in our pool and of course a regional re-match. We were in this same situation last year facing our regional rival in pool play after losing at Regionals. This year we come in as Regional Champions, however, as we found out last year, that means nothing when you’re at Nationals.”
Athletic mismatches with Truck Stop and PoNY, fellow pool D members, should leave both Bravo and Doublewide undefeated when they play in round three on Thursday. Doublewide’s defense will look to limit the effectiveness of Bravo’s Josh ‘Richter’ Ackley and Jimmy Mickle, both playing at a very high level. The teams split their last two meetings with Bravo winning 15-14 at Labor Day and Doublewide prevailing 12-10 in a capped south central regional final. Clearly the margin between these two teams is just a few mistakes throughout the course of the game.
Looking ahead to Friday’s power pools, regardless of the outcome against Bravo, Doublewide will likely see San Francisco’s Revolver. They say if you want to be the best, you must beat the best. The two time defending national champions and reigning world champs provide one heck of a measuring stick. Austin is 1-1 against Revolver on the season with a +1 point differential in those two matchups. The rubber match should provide plenty of fireworks with Beau Kittredge, Mac Taylor and Martin Cochran testing Doublewide’s big men Jake Anderson and Will Driscoll.
Kurt Gibson played for Revolver at Worlds this summer and surely knows a thing or two about the champs from intense practices and scrimmages. His belief in the ability of this Doublewide team is therefore not blind, but informed. Gibson couldn’t have been more blunt when asked about the team’s internal expectations.
“Our goal is to the win the title. Anything less and we will not have reached our goal.”
While Doublewide can still make the quarterfinals without beating Johnny Bravo or Revolver on the first two days, their play in those games will set the tone for a team who desperately want to break through to Sunday. With their talent and championship pedigree, this could be the year when Texas takes that final step towards team history.
Feature photo by Jeff Bell – Ultiphotos.com