July 25, 2018
By Owen Krucoff
The 2018 playoff run may be over for this DC Breeze reporter, but there’s plenty of excitement still to come in the buildup to the AUDL’s Championship Weekend next month in Madison. Around the league, two divisions are down to their final two contenders, one has already determined its Championship Weekend participant, and one still has everything to play for amongst its three playoff teams. Four games this coming weekend will determine the teams and matchups for the season’s climax on August 11-12. With that, it’s time to take a look at where each division stands in this postseason so far.
Although the New York Empire (9-6) managed a to get a breakthrough win over the Breeze on Saturday at Cardinal Stadium, they must now face the stiffest challenge the East has to offer- a playoff game in Toronto. Not only have the Toronto Rush (13-1) never lost a home playoff game to a divisional opponent, they’ve won all five of such contests by an average of 10.2 points, including a 15-point win over New York in 2014. They are also an impressive 17-0 against New York all-time, most recently winning by a score of 25-18 in Toronto on June 17.
One Empire player, however, does have experience winning playoff games in Toronto. Beau Kittredge was a part of the San Jose Spiders team that won the AUDL Championship in Toronto in 2014, beating the Rush in the final. In fact, Kittredge has never lost an AUDL playoff game in his career, having won the last four league championships with three different teams. Something will have to give next Saturday in Toronto.
The South Division will play both of its playoff rounds this weekend in Texas, as the Raleigh Flyers (10-4) visit the Austin Sol (7-7) on Friday night thanks to an agreement held by the South Division teams to limit postseason travel. This means that despite sneaking into the playoffs in third place, the Sol will get to host a postseason contest for the first time.
The teams split their season series this year, with each team winning once at home. There was a significant difference between the two games, however, as Raleigh only lost by two in Austin in April before beating the Sol by 14 in June in North Carolina.
Friday night’s winner will be rewarded with an immediate road trip to Dallas to take on the top-seeded Dallas Roughnecks (13-1) in the South Division title game Saturday evening. Dallas has earned the division’s bid to Championship Weekend in each of its two seasons so far, but its lone loss this year came to the Flyers in Dallas on April 28. The Sol, on the other hand, have never beaten their in-state rivals, going winless in all 12 of their meetings since they both joined the league in 2016.
The Indianapolis Alleycats (12-3) continued their best-ever season with a win over the Minnesota Wind Chill in the first round of the playoffs last weekend. Before this season, Indy hadn’t defeated Minnesota since 2014 and had never won against the Madison Radicals (12-2), but both those streaks came to an end as the Alleycats finished 11-3 before edging the Wind Chill, 20-19, on Saturday in Indiana for their first playoff win since 2012.
The Alleycats will now head to Madison on Saturday to meet the Radicals, who have never missed out on Championship Weekend in their five years in the AUDL. Having tasted defeat in each of those five years, the Radicals may feel that this season is their best chance yet, with the main event being held in their home stadium for the second time. They took two of three from Indianapolis in the regular season, including a 26-17 win on June 30, the only time the teams played in Madison.
The West playoffs were limited to only two teams this season due to there only being five teams in the division, and they faced off in the division title game on Saturday. The top-seeded Los Angeles Aviators (12-3) defeated the San Diego Growlers (7-8), 26-22, to clinch their first ever trip to Championship Weekend. The Aviators ran through the West this year, with their only divisional loss coming to the Growlers in San Diego in the regular season finale after L.A. had already secured the top seed.
Barring upsets in this weekend’s games in the other divisions, the Aviators are likely to be considered underdogs in Madison due to their lack of deep postseason experience, but the West’s unique playoff format gives them time to sit back as the rest of the league takes an extra week to whittle down its contenders. In their only interdivisional action this year, L.A. took two losses in Austin and Dallas by a total of just four points near the beginning of the season. Given the difficulties AUDL teams tend to have on long road trips, those two results could be encouraging to the Aviators as they prepare for the trip to Wisconsin.
This weekend’s playoff schedule:
Raleigh Flyers at Austin Sol - Friday, July 27 (7:30 PM/ET, Live on Eleven Sports)
New York Empire at Toronto Rush - Saturday, July 28 (6:30 PM/ET)
Indianapolis Alleycats at Madison Radicals - Saturday, July 28 (7:00 PM/ET)
RAL/ATX winner at Dallas Roughnecks - Saturday, July 28 (8:00 PM/ET, Live on Stadium)