Davis opened their semi like they deserved a spot in the finals, trading points with a well-conditioned Minnesota squad. However, the team from the North Central region showed their athletic prowess and pulled away with some huge defensive plays from Josh Klane that put a wedge in between Davis and their finals hopes. Klane came down with a Callahan and two points later skied a taller Davis receiver, immediately releasing a full field backhand for a score.
Despite a good fight early on, Davis’ shallow roster could not overcome the relentless pressure of a large, well-conditioned Grey Duck team. Davis found the blocks they needed, but lacked the ability to keep the break. With the final score 15-10, Minnesota advanced to the finals and took a somewhat early break to rest for the last game of the weekend.
Arizona on Fire
Colorado took the field with confidence, and it appeared they had shaken off the doubt of their Saturday and Sunday play. Led by flying defensive plays right out of the gate, Mamabird found themselves with short fields to score on. Jimmy Mickle opened the game as explosive as ever to try and keep his team firing. Mickle’s decisive first steps and his powerful flicks alone will carry Mamabird far this season. He is a danger on either side of the disc and will surely be a Callahan contender.
Colorado took an early lead, but Arizona’s zone shook even the most experienced Colorado handlers. Two Sunburn breaks in a row took them to half, putting the semi back on serve.
Against Arizona’s dynamic zone look, Colorado’s second half consisted mainly of playing for 15 yard gains followed immediately by 15 yard losses. At one point, Colorado was forced to swing the disc back and forth for nearly seven minutes, racking up over 100 throws while Arizona was happy to bide their time, waiting for mistakes that left them with excellent field position. It was containment at its finest, and eventually the points led to squirrely, low-percentage hammers or blades on which Arizona pounced.
Arizona effectively took away Colorado’s deep threat with their zone, while imposing their own deep offense throughout. A system of strong, patient handler cuts cracked Colorado open, allowing for deep shots. Handler Brice Dixon’s creative throws, spiced with a bit of luck and desire in the receiver corps, got Arizona in the endzone time and again.
After breaking up to 9-8, Mamabird dropped a pull that Arizona’s already intense defense used as a hammer for the first nail in Colorado’s coffin. Their defensive pace meant Colorado took longer and longer to score, while Arizona was finding the endzone in a matter of three or four throws. Arizona effectively throttled the game and closed it out with a score of 14-9.
The Sunburn State
Arizona began shaky for their second game in a row, going down two breaks early in the first half. Minnesota found ways to glue down the handler motion Arizona had found so easily against Washington and Colorado. The larger, faster Grey Duck squad made Arizona’s throws lower percentage than they had been earlier in the tournament. Still, Arizona stuck with their game plan, running tight vertical and side stacks, relying on offense to be generated by the handlers.
The one adjustment the Sunburn squad did make was to not rely only on their huck game. Alex Smith, Jacob Lien, and Brice Dixon proved they could grind a man-to-man defense to the ground with under cuts, and Sean “Superman” Ham remained untouchable. He had a perfect semi and final, never turning on the goal line and never losing a disc he had even the remotest chance at. As in their semi, Arizona would break twice to take half and put things on serve.
In what was turning out to be a repeat of the Colorado/Arizona semi, the second half of the finals was dictated by Arizona’s zone. Minnesota ran an extremely tight rotation, and Josh Klane, Jason Tschida, Greg Arenson, and Dave Eddy rarely watched the game from the sideline. In many cases, all four of them were found within 10 yards of the disc as they tic-tac’d it back and forth. But even these four experienced players were frustrated by having to throw short constantly only to lose yards to an encroaching defense. Time after time a miscue would lead to Arizona opportunity.
Fittingly, it was Arizona captain Brice Dixon who dealt the game’s killing blow, throwing a by-then familiar cross-field hammer to a wide open receiver. Arizona remains undefeated. The Southwest is burning.
The Spin Ultimate “Red Jersey” player of the tournament went to Captain Sean “Superman” Ham. His relentless pursuit of the disc lead Arizona to a flawless weekend. He dealt with faster defenders. He dealt with taller defenders. He dealt with bigger defenders. None found success.
Honorable mention goes to his co-captain Brice Dixon who was arguably the best thrower at Presisdent’s Day. If Dixon can continue to blend his throws with the ability to get open in tight spaces, he could even be in the running for Callahan. Greg Arenson (MN), Josh Klane (MN), and Eli Kerns (Davis) also played jaw dropping points throughout the weekend. All are leaders on their teams and deserve to be noted when drawing up any defensive plans.