A couple weeks ago we officially kicked off our season with Varsity participating in a tournament, and JV playing the first game of our regular season high school league. Unfortunately, several players couldn’t commit to both days of the tournament (for various, annoyingly legitimate reasons), limiting our available players to about ten for the weekend. We were already starting off on the wrong foot.
The interesting part of this tournament is that it was divided into an upper and lower division. Nominally, it was set up like many tournaments – pool play on Saturday for seeding, placement play on Sunday. Here though, the two lower division pools automatically filled out the 16-9 bracket, while the upper pools filled out 8-1. There was one catch: on Saturday night, the top team from each lower pool played the bottom teams of the upper pools in a crossover game. Winner played in the upper bracket on Sunday.
We were in one of those lower pools, and making it into the upper bracket was the goal.
We came in as the top seed in our pool, and our first game was against School Y’s JV team. Their Varsity is one of the best teams in the area and squashed us 13-3 last fall, but there is a huge disparity between the two squads. This game was a slaughter to the point that I felt guilty. We took half 8-0, the game 15-1, and I had a couple kids ask me if there was a mercy rule. You could tell our opponent came from a disciplined program, but their JV group couldn’t match us on talent.
Final Score: 15 – 1
Game two against School Q was tougher. There was a strong downfield wind all day, and they threw zone nearly the entire time. We capitalized on a dropped pull to break the first point of the game, but School Q held together and to take back the lead 3-2. Unfortunately for them, our zone O clicked after that (despite Master Chief forgetting he was a handler on multiple occasions), and that was the last time they would lead.
Final Score: 15 – 7
Winning game three would make us a lock for the crossover game. Our opponent, School C, was 1-1 on the day, but the players all looked like linebackers, and not the fat kind. The giant, fast, scary kind. We were looking up with every match up. But after jumpinh out to a 3 – 0 lead, it was apparent that the linebackers were gassed. They only had eight players for the day, so we dropped to 6 v 6, let their coach play, and resumed the game. Our guys continued to execute and won comfortably, putting us into the crossover game.
Final Score: 15 – 5
Our last opponent, School B, did very well in states last year, and after being beat up all day, they were hungry for a win. There were a few hours between pool play and this crossover game, but despite the rest, our players were definitely feeling the effects of playing four games in 10 hours. Combined with the fact that our opponent was a significant cut above in the skill department than our pool matches, and we were looking at the most contested game we played all weekend.
Each team played tough, physical defense, refusing to let anything easy happen on offense. The difference was that we caught a couple more 50/50 throws, and had surprising success jamming it up the sideline. Eventually Master Chief yanked down the game winner between two defenders, cementing our spot in the upper bracket to play with the rest of the big kids. Goal Achieved.
Final Score: 11 – 7
We were down to just nine players and playing some downright powerhouses. The scores make it seem like we got throttled, and there were times where we just looked outmatched. Some of it was karmic payback for catching damn near every deflection and 50/50 throw on Saturday, and some was just poor execution because we were tired.
Our first game was predictably against one of the top two overall seeds. What wasn’t predictable was how good a game it was for us. We lost pretty badly, but had several unforced errors, including some easy drops right in the endzone. There was an steady crosswind all day, and our zone defense kept us in the game and helped negate their obvious advantages of size and experience. Our vert stack struggled for the first half against the force middle defense – a switch to horizontal helped significantly, but wasn’t enough to make up for the errors.
Final Score: 4 – 10
The next game was rougher. This team had a veritable army of players compared to our nine, and they ran us into the ground. My players were tenacious, but by halftime we were down to seven healthy bodies. We had to stop running zone because we couldn’t refresh the cup, our man defense was consistently a step behind, and we struggled to counter their straight up marks and poachy handler defense on offense.
Final Score: 12 – 2
We didn’t play the last game of the day to decide 7th place. Our opponent was down to seven players as well, and we all decided it wasn’t worth it.
All this boils down us proving that we belong. There’s a lot to work on, but we’re a young team (seriously, over half the roster is sophomores and freshmen) and the season has just begun. It’s going to be an excellent year.
Final Scores: 4 – 10, 2 – 12
I got home for the tournament around 1, and our JV game was at 3. We had up to six (of seven) coaches at the tournament this weekend (I may have gone crazy recruiting, but we can talk about that later). With that seventh coach attending the JV game, it would have been understandable for any of us to skip out, citing the long weekend with Varsity.
Yet four of us still showed up to coach six kids (an absurd ratio, I know). We were playing an upper division team, and none of our players were regular handlers. Thankfully, this high school league is a relaxed affair, especially in the lower division. Don’t have enough kids? Borrow some from another team or let a coach or two play. My very first game last year, I ended up coaching a Frankenstein team consisting of three different schools with 2-5 players each.
The present game was all kinds of ugly (even with one or two coaches jumping in for most points), but overall this might have been the most fun game of the weekend (credit to our opponents for being chill). Our players all clearly enjoyed and benefited from the drastic increase in playing time. It was amazing how much more comfortable some of them became with the disc by the end of the game. There were a lot of drops and bad throws, but there were also some great attempts, a few big Ds, and a lot of laughter.
Final Score: 2 – 15
This was a very, very, very good weekend.
Frankly, everyone. It was a fantastic effort all around. But I have to mention a few people.
The Magician – Our numbers would have been even worse if I hadn’t been able to add a couple players last minute from schools not attending the tournament. The Magician was one of those players, and he had an amazing ability to appear in the right place, at the right time. Besides regularly bailing out trapped handlers or suddenly getting wide open in the endzone, his highlight was a momentum-swinging, full field bookend during the crossover game. He crashed out of bounds getting the block, picked himself up, sprinted downfield, and was rewarded with a 40 yard put in the far corner of the endzone (he earned himself the glory sub of all glory subs).
Theodore Roosevelt – “Speak softly and carry a big stick” fits this guy perfectly. Our other rental player, he played lockdown defense all weekend and is the only high schooler I can picture both drinking tea and bare knuckle boxing a gorilla.
My favorite play of his occurred when he had a chance to go for a callahan. It was close, but he didn’t have a play on the disc, or at least, not without tackling the receiver. Most people would go for it anyway. But Roosevelt recognized he didn’t have a play on the disc, and instead of whiffing the block, he chose to set up an aggressive mark and play smart defense. He also gets bonus points for still knocking the guy’s hat off in the process – a bit of extra intimidation never hurts.
The Tornado – Still the engine that makes the team run. He had a huge cross field hammer that fell right into Master Chief’s hands that left me whistling and shaking my head. The combination of him, The Cog, and Teddy Roosevelet bailed out our offense several possessions.
Mia Hamm – One of only a handful girls playing in the open division of the tournament, she was also one of the smallest and least experienced of that group. And she killed it all weekend. It was incredible. She went toe to toe with guys that looked like they could pick her up with one hand and still kept getting open and making all the right throws. She even skied her fair share of guys. There is a picture of her grabbing a disc while being effectively body slammed by an opponent and another guy on our team. It needs to be framed.
Quotes of the Week
“Yeah, I kept forgetting I was a handler. Again.” – Master Chief
“A few drops are worth not having cancer” – a rare moment of clarity from The Tornado, deciding that sunscreen trumps the risk of dropped discs
Plays of the Week
This was tough to choose. The Magician’s bookend was fantastic, and The Tornado made a layout endzone catch that drew whispered compliments from the other team. But neither looked as singularly legendary as one of Master Chief’s blocks.
The disc was arcing towards our endzone, a few feet from the sideline. A couple players leapt and missed by inches. Then, out of nowhere, Master Chief soared through the air, his hand cocked back and a wild look in his eyes. That disc was smote out of bounds like it was struck by the hand of God. All rejoiced.