May 13, 2018
By Noah Fleischman
The DC Breeze knocked off the Raleigh Flyers 25-24 Saturday night in the District. Matthew “Rowan” McDonnell’s 10 goals paced the Breeze as they handed Raleigh their first – and the entire South Division’s first -- regular season interdivisional loss in history.
“I have been saying this season, that [he] is our superpower,” said Breeze head coach Darryl Stanley. “I think Rowan is a top five player right now in the country. [Raleigh] is one of the best defensive teams historically, for him to go out there and just show up some of the best cutter defenders in the league is unreal.”
DC avenged their overtime loss from 385 days ago in North Carolina, their only previous meeting.
“It’s just a big win, Raleigh is really fun,” said McDonnell. “We have a rivalry with them during the club season and the pro season after last year and knowing they are a very talented team.”
For the 2nd time in two tries against Raleigh, DC came out strong and took a commanding five to one lead in the first quarter. The break train started when Troy Holland blocked a Raleigh pass, which led to a Marcus Thaw score off the hands of Holland. This goal marked Thaw’s first of the season.
“I switched to a handler role this season after being a finisher last season,” said Thaw “It was really cool to see us work the disc down to the end zone and have a fantastic thrower like Troy Holland to pass it to me in the corner.”
Soon after the score, McDonnell came up with a huge block in the endzone. The block resulted in a quick DC score by Brad Scott on the second straight break for the Breeze. The third break came from a Delrico Johnson block that led to a Leo Pierson goal.
“Everybody played their role; the space was there and the handlers did a good job at moving it. Offense really came easy tonight,” said McDonnell.
DC and Raleigh went back and forth for most of the second quarter trading goals until the Breeze scored back to back breaks on the Flyers. The Breeze took a 12-8 lead into the halftime break, which should have been 12-7 if not for an incredible behind-the-back flick by John Nethercutt to avoid a double-team with one tick left on the clock that resulted in a deflected buzzer beating goal for the visitors.
Good morning.— AUDL (@theAUDL) May 13, 2018
Here is a slo-mo angle of Jonathan Nethercutt's behind-the-back buzzer-beater. pic.twitter.com/wp0Jb9lWSr
Weather had started to become an issue during the second quarter as ominous clouds rolled in. Those clouds released a downpour for a short period of time in the quarter, and it sent many fans scrambling for cover to escape the rain.
Nethercutt started to create a Raleigh surge early in the third quarter as he connected with Matt Bode to open the second half with a break. Nethercutt then found Jack Williams in the end zone on a long huck down the field after DC had answered the break with a goal of its own.
DC and Raleigh traded turnovers after the Williams goal, and eventually the Flyers had the disc on their own goal line. The Raleigh handler passed it 30 yards across the goal line to a wide open teammate, but McDonnell followed the disc across the field for a perfectly timed jump for the disc and came down with the first Breeze Callahan of the season to put the Breeze back up by four.
Rowan McDonnell with the vicious payback CALLAHAN! pic.twitter.com/xkwYFie5bi— AUDL (@theAUDL) May 13, 2018
The Flyers scored once more and then the weather returned over Cardinal Stadium, this time with significant lightning activity. The game entered a weather delay with 8:25 left in the third quarter and forced fans and players to flock inside the building until the storm passed.
Play resumed with a bang after the 57-minute rain delay as Xavier Maxstadt connected with McDonnell for yet another of his 10 goals on the night. The third quarter ended 18-17 after Raleigh put together back-to-back breaks to come within one.
The early four goal lead for the Breeze and third quarter comeback by Raleigh started to resemble the last meeting between DC and Raleigh, when the Breeze had a commanding lead all game until the fourth quarter comeback by the Flyers. Raleigh overcame the deficit last season and won in overtime.
“Last time we played them, they came back from four goals in the fourth, so when they started making their run in the third I bet it crossed some peoples minds,” said McDonnell. “What we did this time is the D-line just stepped up and got a few critical blocks and we were like ‘This is our field, lets close it out.’”
The Flyers started the fourth quarter with two straight to pull ahead by one. Both teams then exchanged points back and forth throughout the most of the final quarter, until the Breeze finally scored on back to back breaks to go up by two. After Raleigh brought it back within one, DC was able to hold onto the disc for the last 30 seconds to run out the clock for the hard earned victory over the #4 ranked team in Ultiworld’s latest AUDL Power Rankings.
“I felt like we had another great execution game,” said Stanley. “I think we made some tweaks and learned some lessons against New York and we just took advantage of the opportunities given to us.”
Photo by Rob Gilmor