Anyone with predictions about how the 2014 Men’s South Central Regionals was going to turn out probably left the weekend satisfied. The final placements, however, do not tell the whole story. To gloss over this weekend’s games would be to omit what was plainly visible to the spectators: the region’s best engaged in a battle royale to remember for years to come. The three teams that secured bids to the college championships would not leave Tulsa unscathed.
The College Championships were undoubtedly on Colorado Mamabird’s horizon. But before setting their sights on Cincinnati, they were tasked with reclaiming the regional crown lost to Texas the year prior. With the opportunity to directly take it back from their prime rival, they had plenty of motivation going into Sunday, and it showed in the early going.
After taking the first half 8-3, Colorado seemed poised to take the title with ease. Too easily, in fact. Mamabird was hitting on all cylinders while TUFF quickly began to dig their own grave, falling victim to their own offensive miscues. For a team that largely relies on deliberate disc movement, Texas simply could not put enough throws together to consistently score. Colorado was rolling through their rival and facing little resistance in the process.
TUFF steadily crawled their way back into contention in the second half with an 8-3 run of their own, although at the time it did not come off as a dominant stretch for Texas, but more of a grind. Colorado maintained that signature casual demeanor throughout the comeback, but the shift in momentum was undeniable once the lead slimmed to just one, at 11-10. After receiving the pull just outside their own end zone, a botched dump resulted in a Texas Callahan to complete the comeback, tying the game at 11’s. Soft cap had already blown, making it a game to 13, and the highlights were just beginning.
By now, nearly every player on the Colorado sideline stood in silent tension. No leisurely toss of the football would ease these nerves. Meanwhile, the Texas sideline intensified, barking orders to teammates. “Texas Fight” chants belted through the air. The sleeping giant had awoken.
Now on offense, Mamabird looked to reclaim the lead on a deep look to their insurance policy, Jimmy Mickle, with TUFF’s Will Driscoll matching him stride for stride. “This is the matchup we wanted to see,” exclaimed one spectator as the disc traveled toward the end zone. In position the entire time, Driscoll successfully defended the score, earning another possession for Texas. Following a timeout, Texas seized the break opportunity. A Driscoll huck to the red zone and quick score thereafter gave Texas a crucial score and the lead.
Game point, TUFF.
With the title slipping out of their hands, Mamabird confidently marched the disc down the field as Mickle took it upon himself to run the point, this time with his handles.
12-12, universe point.
Receiving the disc for the final possession, TUFF displayed patience moving the disc, appearing content to navigate the field with as many throws as necessary. Colorado ran a tight man defense, allowing little yardage and little running room. One Colorado defender in particular was hell bent on making a stop: Stanley Peterson. His assignment? Will Driscoll.
As Texas nickled and dimed their way up the field, open throws were becoming increasingly hard to find. In the backfield, Driscoll sought to receive an up-line throw from Carlos Vargas but Peterson, on Driscoll’s heels the whole route, successfully made the layout block. Driscoll however, apparently felt contact and called a foul. After some debate, the players looked to the nearby observer, who abstained to make a call. The disc was sent back to Vargas on a contested foul.
As play resumed, Driscoll made a deep cut too enticing for Vargas to pass up, and thus pulled the trigger on a near-perfect flick huck (A somewhat unexpected play as Vargas, although likely to be TUFF’s most solid handler, does not air it out often.) Driscoll managed to get just a step ahead of Peterson on the run and seemed on the verge to haul in the disc for the score and the win. Out of desperation, Peterson laid out from behind, causing Driscoll to bobble and drop the disc. Once again, Driscoll called a foul. There did appear to be some contact to Driscoll’s head. Whether the contact caused the drop is up for opinion. In any case, the observers deliberated and eventually upheld the call, rewarding Driscoll the disc just outside the end zone, one throw away from a second straight regional title.
The disc tapped in, Colorado’s defense clamped down even tighter, allowing Driscoll only a dump to Vargas, who could only manage to dump it back to Driscoll. Trapped on the sideline, pressure mounting, Driscoll attempted a break backhand to Mitchell Bennett for the score. But Colorado’s Danny Bechis prolonged the game with a layout catch block. This time – despite Bennett going down with an injury – there would be no foul called. This time, the disc truly belonged in possession, needing to go the length of the field for the win.
Fisher managed to get the disc to Mickle just a few yards ahead. Not three counts into the stall, Mickle ripped a flick huck across the field, landing right into his receiver’s hands a few yards from the final score. After a couple of brief stoppages, Peterson threw the game winning-assist with a floating break flick to the front cone. Colorado clinched the South Central Regional Championship and the first bid to Cincinnati.
A TUFF Win for Texas
Can securing a bid be a dispirited occasion? Is there such a thing?
After coming up short in their comeback against Colorado, Texas immediately entered another gauntlet against Texas A&M Dozen for the second bid. Both teams were depleted in their own right. Dozen had already played two nail biters that morning and lost Dalton Smith in the process. TUFF had lost Mitchell Bennett to injury and were forced to shake off their previous letdown against Colorado.
Still, the game did not disappoint. Texas came out victorious 12-11 in a wire-to-wire game, after facing game point at 10-11. Calvin Lin and company ground out their eleventh berth into nationals in thirteen years. But the win seemed more of a relief than a joyous occasion for TUFF. Their immediate reaction wasn’t exactly to revel in the moment. The few exclamations of victory heard seemed to only be a means of urging others to do so; as if reminding one another the feat they just accomplished. Perhaps the disappointment of the previous game still resonated. Perhaps it was exhaustion. Perhaps it was the realization that with the postseason finale now just around the corner, their play still demonstrated vulnerabilities.
For Texas, simply making it to the college championships is clearly not the intended pinnacle. Still plagued by miscues, this is a squad in search of solidity. With an arsenal of the some of the nation’s best players and a coaching staff that has seen it all, there’s still time to right the ship. It only takes a weekend of hot play to become champion and TUFF more than stands a chance despite it all. But only one tournament remains, there are no more lead-up contests through which they can prepare. So it’s back to Austin and back to the drawing board – one last time.
Texas A&M Takes the Third
True to Dozen form, A&M walked away from their loss to TUFF confident and in good spirits. No amount of adversity could ever hinder these men, physically or mentally (despite the fact they were one point away from the second bid). They knew the third and final bid would be there so long as they took care of business and Dozen did just that. They clinched the final birth by defeating Colorado College Wasabi 15-12, their second victory over that team on Sunday.
Wasabi was not merely a fourth fiddle. Throughout the weekend, they (along with Arkansas) proved to be legitimate threats to shake up the pecking order of the region. In fact, Wasabi drew first blood from A&M, defeating them in the quarterfinal of the championship bracket. But in the end, the ever-resilient A&M made their way back to the big dance after what has been a trying thirteen-year absence.
The road at times was a bit rocky, and the destination was no guarantee, but the ramblin’ gamblin’ men of College Station have claimed their rightful spot amongst the final sixteen and they did so in their own unique fashion – crafty, risky, unconventional, even at times reckless. Now they’ll showcase their skills and entertainment on the grandest stage in college ultimate. Similar to nearly every play they’ve made this season, what they’ll do in Cincinnati is unpredictable.
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