August 9, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
The second event on semifinal Saturday features one of the more intriguing interdivisional matchups in AUDL playoff history as the Dallas Roughnecks get set to battle the San Diego Growlers. The Roughnecks are making their fourth consecutive Championship Weekend appearance in 2019, having been in two of the past three league championship games. The Growlers are making their first semifinals appearance in franchise history thanks to a committed core and the most potent offense in the league.
Dallas has a clear historical edge in playoff experience, and is the only team entering this year's Championship Weekend having won a prior AUDL title. The Roughnecks still have six players remaining from their 2016 championship squad, and have rebuilt their rotations on a large crop of young Texas talent. Jay Froude, Abe Coffin, and Dalton Smith are the faces of this franchise, but Dallas can go 20+ deep on their roster and still find playmakers that could become an x factor this weekend. Last year, Connor Olson and Carson Wilder showed their stuff on the big stage, and there's a handful of peers who could have similar performances tomorrow night. The Roughnecks thrive off big plays, and if they get rolling early—as they did in their big South Division Championship Game win over Raleigh—they will look like a true title contender.
The Roughnecks defense rattled the Flyers offense early and often two weeks ago, but the Growlers may be a harder bunch to throw out of rhythm. Tim Okita, Michael Tran, Jonathan Helton, and MVP finalist Travis Dunn have been the best, most consistent offensive foursome in the league in 2019. San Diego failed to score 20+ goals in only one game this season, largely thanks to their league-leading team completion rate and low amount of turnovers. This Growlers team loves to use all of its pieces in harmony, and though Sean Ham is a worthy favorite endzone target, this offense moves the disc laterally well enough that each player becomes a weapon on the field.
The Dallas offense has undergone a tectonic shift over the past month or so. Franchise throwing leader Brandon Malecek has been deactivated for the second straight playoff game, and Froude figures to play on defense in the semifinal after spending most of the past two seasons leading the offense. The moves have cleared the way for the Coffin era on the Roughnecks O-line, capitalizing on the team's breakneck speed. Dallas seemed unfazed by a very good Raleigh defense in their divisional final, and though San Diego has some individual defenders in Scott Radlauer, Will Turner, and Steven Milardovich, the Roughnecks may once again be able to dictate the terms of action with their feet and zippy throws.
The result will come down to what rhythm the game develops. If the pace is fast and uptempo, it will favor the Growlers, their flow-heavy offense, and a defense that gets big stops in big moments. If the play is grinding, the Roughnecks will carry a considerable edge, as they have a lot of experience on the big stage and against tough opponents.
|21.15 (10)||GPG||23.85 (1)|
|19.69 (7)||GPGA||20.69 (12)|
|13.85 (1)||BPG||11.46 (4)|
|20.15 (15)||TOPG||16.08 (5)|
|231.62 (11)||CMP||249.31 (5)|
|93.20% (16)||CMP %||95.00% (1)|
GPG: Goals Per Game; GPGA: Goals Per Game Against; BPG: Blocks Per Game; TOPG: Turnovers Per Game; CMP: Completions Per Game; CMP %: Team Completion %
- Athletic depth — Dallas has the best team speed of anyone in the final four. They race away from defenders on offense, and their defense wears receivers out over a four quarter game. Dallas has the rare ability to float players like Froude, Smith, and Kai Marshall between lines because they don't fear losing individual matchups. The Roughnecks stunted a supremely athletic Flyers squad on July 27, and made it almost look easy in the process.
- Playmaking — Froude, Coffin, Wilder, and Olson all have numerous appearances on the league's Top 10 through the years. But this team's big play ability goes way deeper. Kaplan Maurer is a hustler who has both hard-nosed playmaking and flair. Griffin Miller has rockets in his shoes. Gabriel Hernandez is a Callahan winner, and you barely even notice him in this lineup of studs.
- Defense — There might not be a team in the league that likes to go out and get after it on defense like the Roughnecks. In the wake of their superstar beginnings, this team has defined itself with a next-man-up mentality that makes gaining an edge against Dallas nearly impossible. The 'Necks are great in single coverage, and they have the confidence to win each individual matchup if they're locked in.
- Turnovers — The Roughnecks like to chuck it. It's that simple. They trust their individual matchups, and they believe they can earn the disc back virtually at will when necessary. This leads to certain points where they play field position, opting for long distance hucks and playing defense even if they turn it. But the Growlers are keenly adept at maintaining possession, and unforced errors by Dallas may be more costly in this matchup than the 'Necks are normally used to.
- Cohesion — Head Coach Wes Nemec has revealed himself to be very good at adjustments, both between games and during them. But with so much flux in lineups and rotations, there are times when inconsistencies come up. And if that happens at Championship Weekend—as it did to Dallas in 2017 against Toronto in the semis—it could unravel the team in short order. The Roughnecks like to play with momentum, but it can go both ways.
- Ego — This one could be listed in strengths, too, but for current purposes we're gonna slide it in as a possible distraction. Dallas has as much talent as any team in the league, and they will be the first ones to tell you this. But even they admit that they haven't always done the best job in scouting their opponents, which has led to the most team losses in franchise history. They made amends in the South title game, and figure to be well versed heading into tomorrow night.
SAN DIEGO GROWLERS
- Disc movement — Keeping the disc moving is one of the most underrated parts of a good offense in the AUDL, and no team does it better than San Diego. Okita is the primary force behind their success, as his nimble feet and infinite supply of throws keep the disc zigging and zagging past helpless defenders. Dunn is also at an elite level with his throw-and-go moves at his size. The Growlers ratchet up their tempo even further in the redzone, and can execute a dozen throws in seconds to find an easy score.
- Chemistry — Aside from Helton, nearly every Growlers player rostered this year has spent years with or around the organization. The defense gets blocks in bunches when they get going because of the way the players feed off of each other's energy. The offense is able to operate at such blistering speeds because they know where and when to target specific players.
- Playmaking — Even in the All-Star Game, there was Dunn making clutch play after clutch play for Team Rowan as they mounted a historic second half comeback. Helton needs little in the way of introduction to a highlight reel. Radlauer has a veteran's sense of moment for making big plays. And there's still a good grip of guys—Okita, Tran, Jesse Cohen, Wes Groth—that can elevate when given the opportunity.
- Defensive depth — The Growlers do a fantastic job scouting opponents in advance and getting good matchups in place. But Dallas provides a unique challenge because of their speed and confidence with the disc. Los Angeles provided a good blueprint for San Diego, but even their fast paced style pales to the Roughnecks' game.
- Big game experience — Helton and Ham are the only two players on this roster with Championship Weekend experience. The Growlers first playoff game was just last season. The bulk of this roster is going to have to get used to the big stage in a hurry if they want to survive until Sunday's final.
- Confidence — San Diego often starts and finishes games strong, but they can have lulls in the middle parts of contests, and struggle to expand leads. This Growlers team has the talent to matchup with anyone at this year's Championship Weekend event, but they have to keep their foot on the accelerator and crush when they find themselves with a lead.