With both the Seattle Rainmakers and the San Francisco Dogfish entering their weekend game 2-0, this game looked like a Western Conference Finals preview. With the teams not scheduled to play each other again until June 15, the game took on an even greater importance. However, the anticipation dissipated somewhat when it was revealed how many players would be missing the game. From San Francisco’s side they were without Beau Kittredge, Mac Taylor, Ashlin Joye, and Martin Cochran. Those four accounted for much of the Dogfish’s offense. Meanwhile the Rainmakers were without Matt Rehder, Matty Zemel, Phil Murray, Joseph Sefton, and Moses Rifkin, among others.
Even without a lot of the biggest names, a win would be just as valuable as any other week. And though the Rainmakers were missing a lot of players, the Dogfish were missing their biggest superstars, and the Rainmakers were favored despite playing on the road.
The game was a tale of two halves. In the first half it was all Seattle. The Rainmakers were able to convert half of the O-Line possessions into points, often utilizing their deep game to score. Two players that stood out for Seattle in the first half were Mario O’Brien and Adam Simon. Out of the Rainmaker’s 10 points, Simon and O’Brien accounted for over half of them. O’Brien had three assists, while Simon had two assists and one goal. Seattle’s D-Line, which was expected to struggle more given the absence of Matty Zemel, was on fire. They converted four of their eight possessions into points, Donnie Clark had two assists and a D by the end of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, almost everyone on San Francisco was struggling. Cassidy Rasmussen and Russell Wynne, two of San Francisco’s better players, had seven turns in the first half between them. Their D-Line converted on only one of six possessions. The Dogfish only completed two of eight attempted hucks in the first half. Evan Boucher was the lone bright spot for the team. Despite playing with an injury, Boucher had three assists in the first half. It wasn’t Boucher’s first big game of the season either, having thrown three assists and caught two goals in the Dogfish’s victory over the Stags in Week 1. Though Boucher isn’t one of the best known players on the Dogfish, his performance shouldn’t come as a surprise. Beyond his play on Boost Mobile last season, Boucher also played for the Bluegrass Revolution last season in the AUDL. Despite only playing in seven games, he had 40 assists and 30 goals. Playing with a more talented team in San Francisco has meant taking on a lesser role, but with so many starters out of the lineup this week Boucher made his presence known. But with the rest of his team struggling so much, it didn’t look like it would be enough. Seattle led at halftime 10-5.
Things changed in the third quarter. The most noticeable change that led to the many that followed was that San Francisco started throwing zone. Seattle and San Francisco traded turnovers in the first point coming out of half until the Dogfish finally converted. Up 10-6, Seattle received the disc. The Rainmaker’s O-Line handlers of Adam Simon, Mario O’Brien, and Danny Karlinsky were able to work the disc down to half field by themselves, where Simon had the disc. He sent a huck to Danny Trytiak in the end zone. Though Trytiak came down with the disc for the score, the throw was into coverage, and Seattle was lucky to score. Even with the half field huck it had taken them 12 completions to get to the end zone, when they had never needed more than nine in the first half. After the Dogfish converted their O-Line point to make it 7-11, their D-Line went on the field.
Though the San Francisco D-Line hadn’t done much yet, they brought the Dogfish back into the game in the second half. They scored three points in a row. Their zone was instrumental every time. It incorporated double teams without leaving players open downfield, instead allowing the dump or swing, as long as that player didn’t have an option once they got the disc. Each time the Dogfish D-Line got the disc they scored quickly. Not because of quick hucks either. In fact, though the Dogfish were only 2-8 on hucks in the first half, they weren’t any better in the second half, going 1-4. The difference was that their D-Line was giving them an extremely short field. In the first half the Dogfish D-Line averaged ten completions on scoring possessions, and 2.6 on turnovers. In the second half that flipped, averaging 3 completions on scoring possessions, and 5.7 on turnovers. Given the D-Line didn’t huck at all in the second half, those low completion numbers show just how little work they had to do to get to Seattle’s end zone. Danny Karlinsky would eventually stop the bleeding on an assist to Danny Trytiak, capitalizing on a short pull by the Dogfish. The next point Devon Anderson would get open in the end zone for a goal, he’d finish with three on the day, all in the second half. And entering the fourth quarter San Francisco was back in it, trailing only 11-12.
With San Francisco starting on offense in the fourth quarter, the teams would trade until they were tied at 14, with Seattle receiving. The Dogfish were still throwing their zone. The Rainmaker’s had scored on it the last time their O-Line took the field, even though they needed 23 completions then a Mario O’Brien hammer to make it happen.
This time it seemed like they were drained, with simple errors costing the team. After five completions Adam Simon dropped the disc, and though he looked to the referee for a foul but none came. Still, the Rainmakers managed to get the disc back due to a D by Adam Holt. Going up against the San Francisco zone again Seattle managed eight completions before Holt threw the disc away, his fifth turnover of the day. After a line switch Seattle would get the disc back again, and once again give it back to San Francisco. This time the Dogfish finally capitalized, taking a lead they would not relinquish, winning 16-14.
Looking forward after a game like this is difficult. With the Dogfish missing their Team USA players to a clinic in Russia and Seattle missing four of their seven O-Line cutters, one might be inclined to say that without so many players from both sides it was more akin to a spring training game than anything else, and that conclusions shouldn’t be drawn from it. But that would be a mistake. San Francisco went on a 8-3 run to end this game. Their D-Line seriously flustered Seattle in the second half, and you can be sure Coach Ben Wiggins will be reviewing game tape to see what Seattle needs to do to get their cutters more involved in their zone offense, something that rarely happened in this game.
In the first half, Seattle’s O-Line scored on half their possessions, taking 5.8 completions to do so. In the second half they scored on only a third of their possessions, taking 12 completions to find the end zone. In the first half their D-Line was 4-8 in scoring on their possessions, in the second half they were 0-8. That’s meaningful, and shows the impact the Dogfish zone had. It could be that fatigue played a large role, especially given that it was Seattle’s first road game. Of course this isn’t the first time the Rainmakers have struggled in the second half. In their season opener they led the Nighthawks 14-6, and let the Nighthawks close the game on a 6-0 run. Add that 6-0 run to end the game to San Francisco’s 8-3 run and it could be the start of a problem. The contrasts in the first and second half are so stark, they shouldn’t be written off as random. The Rainmakers have a big game against the Nighthawks coming up on Sunday afternoon. If they lose they’ll fall into third place behind Vancouver. With such a short season in the MLU every game matters, and Seattle can’t afford to fall into a slump, because their competition is just too steep.
Feature Photo by Scott Roeder-Ultiphotos.com