June 28, 2022
By Evan Lepler
There are five weeks and exactly 55 games remaining in the 2022 AUDL regular season, and as the calendar flips to July this Friday, it’s clear that the month ahead should set the stage for a tremendous playoff picture.
In Week 9, only two of the nine games were decided by one or two scores, but it was still an interesting landscape full of surprises and history. We saw the winningest AUDL franchise suffer its largest loss ever, and we witnessed an ironic pair of West Division doubleheaders: the 5-1 team went 0-2 on the road, while the 1-5 team went 2-0.
Perhaps most significantly, we saw Colorado and Chicago both remain undefeated, and with 9-0 New York idle in Week 9, we still have three teams with perfect records as we move into the final month of the regular season. The Summit and Union were both tested on Saturday night, but both had all the right answers in the moments that mattered.
The road to Championship Weekend ends in Madison on August 26 and 27, meaning that we are exactly 60 days away from crowning the next AUDL champ.
The Full Field Layout
Among the three undefeated powers that are still pursuing perfection, Chicago’s quest has been by far the bumpiest. But to their credit, the now 6-0 Union have repeatedly made the plays at winning time over their past three games. On June 10, they needed a Jeff Weis-to-Ross Barker bomb with less than 30 seconds left to break the tie against Madison. Seven days later, they trailed 14-10 in the third quarter against Austin before boomeranging the Sol with a 9-2 rampage en route to their 24-21 interdivisional triumph.
Chicago needed yet another comeback this past Saturday at Indianapolis, trailing 22-20 with less than seven minutes left in the fourth. As usual, playing inside their climate-controlled venue, the AlleyCats offense was tough to stop, and the Union were running out of time.
“AlleyCats played a very clean offensive game,” said Chicago’s Nate Goff. “As always, it was hard to generate turnovers on their offense indoors. They only made four or five mistakes the entire game offensively.”
But one of those mistakes came with Indy up 22-21 and just over five minutes left. Cameron Brock bolted away from Goff, who knew immediately that he was burned on the up-line slash. But that’s when Chicago’s Reid Martin made the play of the game.
“I was beat to the cone by Brock and asked for a roll, but instead [Martin] was able to stuff the push pass,” said Goff. “It was a total momentum swing from that point on.”
Indeed, Barker's majestic flick huck for Weis tied the game at 22. Then former AlleyCat John Jones delivered a sensational soaring block in the end zone against former teammate Levi Jacobs, leading to Kyle Rutledge’s cross-field missile for Charlie Furse, vaulting the Union ahead 23-22 with two and half minutes remaining. About 45 seconds after that, Goff’s diving interception set up another Chicago break-chance, which Goff’s diabolical diagonal hammer paid off, giving the Union its first multi-goal lead of the game.
Brock skied for another goal to bring Indy within one with 51 seconds left, but the Union successfully bled the rest of the clock with a dozen clean completions to cap their 24-23 comeback win.
“There were definitely mixed emotions after the game,” said Goff, who finished with two assists, one goal, and one block. “Personally, I was ecstatic. The defense made three key blocks at the end that were able to secure us a win on the road. I have played on many teams with lesser goals than ours and have learned to celebrate every road win you can get, especially against a team that played as clean as the Cats. The offense was less happy; they know they must be better.”
For their second straight game, the Union’s late defensive pressure was the difference, but the AlleyCats also felt that their fourth-quarter downfall was somewhat self-inflicted.
“Most of the momentum was swung by our own errors first,” said Indy’s Lucas Coniaris, who paced the AlleyCats with 42 completions and 385 throwing yards. “When I think of the turns that happened in the fourth, many of them were Chicago making plays on mental errors or throwing mistakes. I floated a routine leading pass, which enabled John Jones to make a spectacular layout block in the end zone.”
Chicago improved to 4-0 in games decided by three or less, while Indy dipped to 1-2 in their closest games. Overall, the Cats fell to 4-3, but they’re still a half-game ahead in the race for the Central Division’s third playoff spot.
It seems clear that the AlleyCats will be battling the Madison Radicals for that postseason berth, though the Rads looked more pretender than contender on Saturday in St. Paul. Whereas Madison scuffled with end-of-quarter issues in narrow setbacks against Chicago and Austin, the Radicals were resoundingly outplayed by Minnesota, who handed Madison the franchise’s largest margin of defeat ever. The Wind Chill led 4-0, 11-3, and coasted to a 22-11 rout on a blustery night for ultimate.
“The wind itself was a gusty crosswind, so the inconsistent breezes really made throws or catches that should be routine a little trickier,” said Wind Chill Captain Bryan Vohnoutka. “Just when you were about to attack the disc, the bottom would drop out or it would pop over you.”
Whereas Chicago and Indy combined for 25 turnovers in their indoor environment, Madison and Minnesota created nearly three times as many, with the Wind Chill holding the Madison offense to just eight scores in 38 possessions. Minnesota’s disc movement was far from pristine, but the Wind Chill navigated the conditions to the tune of 12 breaks in 29 opportunities, holding the Radicals to just three goals in the game’s first 21 minutes.
“Our pullers, Abe Coffin, Brandon Matis, and Sam Ward, put the defense in a great position to be successful all throughout the game,” said Dylan DeClerck, who led the Wind Chill with four goals and three blocks.
Winners of five straight since their home opening loss to Chicago, the Wind Chill will voyage to the Windy City this Friday night for another huge showdown against the Union. It feels like a must-win for Minnesota if the Wind Chill want to potentially host the Central Division title game.
“We know Chicago is a good team, and as the first game of the year showed, it was tight until the end,” said Vouhnoutka. "We’re looking to flip the script.”
The Union also don’t need to be reminded about the significance of Friday’s matchup.
“This game has been circled on our calendars all year,” said Goff.
The two-time defending West Division champs are officially in trouble.
San Diego embarked on their Rocky Mountain road trip with a five-game winning streak and the ambition to reclaim the narrative as the team to beat, but ultimately the Growlers were left reeling a bit after a pair of disappointing defeats against the Division’s new top two.
Salt Lake and Colorado both outplayed San Diego by sizable margins, sending the Growlers back to SoCal at 5-3 after 23-18 and 27-21 setbacks, respectively.
“The altitude of both places and heat of Salt Lake and missing firepower and even injuries of our rostered guys all had their influence on the weekend,” said San Diego Captain Paul Lally. “But none of that excuses our execution on the trip. This was one of the toughest weekends to help coach through because it felt like the majority of our issues were execution and decision errors, rather than systemic ones.”
On Friday against the Shred, the Growlers gifted Salt Lake 11 drops, more than a third of their 31 turnovers, the most miscues in a game for San Diego since 2018. One day later, the Growlers cleaned up their catches, but they could not dispossess the Summit O-line, as Colorado’s O offered San Diego just three break chances across 48 minutes.
“Both those teams are great and are tough to beat,” said Lally, reflecting on the Shred and Summit. “Explosive offenses and athletic defense.”
On Friday, Salt Lake registered double-digit breaks in a game for the third time in four home games, improving to 5-2 and seizing control of the second place. It was far from the Shred’s prettiest performance—Salt Lake endured a season-high 24 turnovers and completed a season-low 88.8 percent of their passes—but Joel Clutton recorded four blocks in the first half and 14 different Shred players scored a goal in their five-point victory. Salt Lake roared to a 4-1 lead and never trailed for a single second across the four quarters
On Saturday in Denver, the Growlers and Summit were tied 12-all at halftime, but Colorado used back-to-back breaks on the first two points of the second half to storm in front. The Summit maintained its offensive precision and defensive pressure, converting six second-half breaks compared to the Growlers none.
San Diego’s Paul Lally and Travis Dunn each churned for massive yardage on the second night of their back-to-back, producing 942 and 842 total yards, respectively, against the Summit. Dunn also threw nine assists and caught two goals, but he did not have enough help against the balanced and deep Colorado contingent. Quinn Finer, Jay Froude, and Thomas Brewster combined for 16 goals and just one turnover, while Alex Atkins, Jonathan Nethercutt, and Matt Jackson collectively threw 13 assists and completed 114-of-117 passes. In a familiar theme for the Summit, Cody Spicer anchored the D-line, producing two goals, two assists, one block, and earning a spot on the Week 9 "Honor Roll".
At 8-0, Colorado has two games against Los Angeles, a rematch at San Diego, and a home tilt against free-falling Portland separating the Summit from a perfect 12-0 inaugural regular season.
Following Saturday’s victory, Nethercutt acknowledged that the notion of going undefeated in the franchise’s first season is becoming impossible to ignore.
“12-0’s always on your mind,” Nethercutt said. “We don’t try to dodge it. Once you hit 8-0, people think about it; we’ve thought about it with every game we’ve won, but we also don’t spent time dwelling on it. Our goal, and our priority, is to hopefully have a home playoff game and be in the playoffs fighting for the chance to be at Championship Weekend, and then our goal after that, one step at a time, is to be at Championship Weekend and compete there. So it’d be sweet for sure for a first-year franchise to go undefeated, but that would be a bonus. Priorities are definitely being at playoffs and hopefully a home divisional playoff game too.”
Meanwhile, the Growlers have a week off to regroup before they get another crack at Colorado on Friday, July 8.
“I’m looking very forward to another battle against [the Summit],” said Lally. “We’ll show up much more than we did this weekend.”
Seven On The Line
- The only multi-win Week 9 in the AUDL belonged to the surprising Spiders, who’ve now won three in a row since starting 0-5. While the schedule has gotten considerably friendlier, Oakland’s confidence is unquestionably rising heading into July. “The team is really finding its identity and is focusing on the joy in our game,” said Oakland handler Matt Kissmann, who completed all 85 of his throws for more than 800 passing yards on the weekend. “I think like a good shooter going through a slump, we just needed to see the ball go through the hoop. We finally got the last week against Seattle. This week, we could use our renewed confidence and run the systems we’ve been practicing all season.” It took the Spiders more than eight minutes to find the end zone for the first time in Seattle, but after a seven-minute, 10-turnover, two-timeout point, Oakland finally converted a 31-yard strike from Ashton Paulus to Ryan Shepard. That initiated a 4-1 run, as the Cascades offense went nearly 14 minutes between scores, and the Spiders never trailed again the rest of the weekend.
“The second point of the Seattle game was an absolute fight where every rostered player touched the field,” remembered Chris Lung, who threw 14 assists in the two games. “Even though it ended up just being a hold for us, I thought that it set the tone early that we were going to impose our will throughout the game.” After leading 9-5 at half and 16-11 through three, the Spiders extended the lead to as many as eight before Seattle recorded its second break of the game. The Cascades created a couple conversations late, but Oakland still prevailed comfortably, 22-17, sweeping the season series against Seattle.
- One day later in Portland, the temperature was close to 100 degrees as the two teams took the field for their 4 PM local time start. The two O-lines traded back and forth over the first eight points, but with the score tied at four, the Spiders completely took over, winning the final five minutes of the first 5-1.
Later, Oakland was up 11-8 early in the second before rampaging on a 7-1 demolition to stretch the lead to 18-9. Defense appeared optional for the undermanned Nitro, who saw the Spiders score 18 times in both halves, including 12 goals in the fourth quarter alone, as Oakland rolled 36-21. The Spiders’ 96.7 percent completion rate against the Nitro was the team’s highest ever in franchise’s 109-game history, multi-championship history. “The feeling for us was that they don’t play very tight defense generally, so moving the disc and hitting open hands instead of harder shots was the focus we found most successful,” said Lung. “We did also throw a decent amount of hucks early that all got completed, however they were mostly in motion and to receivers that created a lot of space by threatening under and deep.” Oakland’s 15 breaks of the Nitro offense were the most breaks for the Spiders since June 28, 2014, when they destroyed the original Salt Lake Lions franchise 37-12, a game in which the Spiders recorded 24 breaks. At 3-5, the Spiders still have a steep climb to contend for a playoff berth, but they are hopeful to keep the momentum rolling into the season’s final month. “I think we match up well with all the teams we have left,” said Lung, “and I think with the chemistry the offense has been showing recently and defensive grit and intensity, we’re positioned well to give the division a little scare.”
- Meanwhile, the Nitro… Holy moly! Portland, who at one point was 2-1 with the only blemish being a double overtime loss against still undefeated Colorado, have now lost five straight, punctuated by Sunday’s embarrassing 15-point home loss. They’ve gone from a Championship Weekend contender to a near cellar-dweller in the span of five weeks. And the schedule only gets tougher going forward, as Portland’s final four games are all against the top three teams in the West.
There’s no doubt that Portland can be a dangerous opponent at full strength, but we’ve only rarely glimpsed their complete array of talent all on the field at once. It’s eerily and ominously reminiscent of what we seen from the Boston Glory, who arrived as an expansion team in 2021. Boston and Portland are two proud ultimate cities with no shortage of talent and tradition, but the on-field commitment from several top players has been, at best, inconsistent. Until that changes, it’s hard to imagine them truly being in the championship mix.
- Speaking of the Glory, their road woes continued in Toronto on Saturday, as the Rush surged to an early lead and hung on late for a 25-23 win. While the Glory fell to 0-5 on the road and 3-6 overall, the Rush reminded everyone that their young group is capable of wildly disparate results.
“Some nights we feel unstoppable, and the next we are only scoring eight goals,” said Toronto’s James Lewis, who torched the Glory for eight goals himself on Saturday night. “We really got manhandled in Boston earlier this year, so we wanted to show everyone what we are capable of. On Saturday, we were able to lock it in and score when we needed to, and obviously we were greatly helped by our D-line getting some very clutch Ds to allow us to pull ahead.” Luc Comiré completed all 51 of his throws, including five assists and five other assists, while Ryan Poloz went 40-for-40 with nine dimes for the Rush. Boston’s Cole Davis-Brand produced a game-best 666 yards, along with five assists, three goals, and a block, but the Glory’s comeback bid fell short. “Another case of Glory with a less-than-perfect roster, and underperforming across the board,” said Davis-Brand. “Second half we clicked and turned it around; we won the second half, but dug ourselves a hole too big to overcome.” Interestingly, the Rush and Glory began the 2022 season with very different expectations, with Boston determined to compete for the postseason while Toronto featured much more of a rebuilding feel. But as we enter July, both teams have the same number of wins. “We were focused and having fun,” said Poloz. “That’s really all it was. When we are doing both of those things, we are a tough team to compete with.”
- Austin only led 6-5 after one quarter on Saturday night against Dallas, but the Sol outscored the Legion 15-6 in the middle two periods to completely blow the game open. Even though Dallas won the fourth 9-5, it was far too little, too late, as the Sol prevailed 26-20. “Our D-line took a little while to wake up and flip the switch,” said Austin Captain Jake Radack, who totaled a game-high 649 yards, along with six assists.
“I think they were expecting Dallas to just give them the disc—which eventually did happen—but they needed to earn some Ds first. There was never a doubt in my mind that we would go on a defensive run, and it came fast in the second quarter and continued through the third. Elliott Moore and Oliver Fay had breakout games, and I expect them to play more like that the rest of the season.” Indeed, Moore matched Radack with a half-dozen assists despite playing zero O-points, while Fay tallied three goals and two blocks for a career-best plus-five; he had been plus-three in his previous seven games combined. Legion rookie Drew Watson had his best game of the season too, with six goals, three assists, and two blocks, but Dallas still dropped to 0-6. The Sol are now 3-0 against the Legion this season, with two more matchups against Dallas on tap the rest of the way. They meet again in Dallas this weekend.
- As for the South-leading Carolina Flyers, they rolled on the road against the Division’s other winless team, prevailing 23-15 at Tampa Bay, who fell to 0-7 on the season.
“A major storyline for us is that we got a lot of opportunities for the D-line offenses to get work on a turn in a game situation, which I think is valuable experience for us most certainly,” said Carolina’s Eric Taylor. “Overall, happy with the way that the game went; obviously still lots of room for improvement, but that’s the way we like it.” Carolina won all four quarters, leading 5-3 after one, 11-6 at half, and 15-9 through three before outscoring the Cannons 8-6 in the fourth. While the Flyers won comfortably, the team’s streak of 24 straight games with fewer than 20 turnovers did come to an end, as Carolina, playing without starting center handler Sol Yanuck, experienced 22 giveaways on Saturday in Florida. But Alex Davis caught five goals, Elijah Long tallied six assists, and Henry Fisher had three and three as the Flyers improved to 8-1 heading into this Saturday’s Game of the Week against Atlanta. “I think the focus for this [Hustle] game is to try and put together the best bits of frisbee that we’ve played against them so far this year, and try to really put together a dominant game,” said Taylor.
- It seems silly to mention this as an aside, but you know who’s quietly having an excellent season? That would be the league’s all-time scoring king, Cam Brock, who has 30 goals and 13 assists in seven games for the 4-3 AlleyCats. Perhaps more importantly, his 96.2 percent completion rate has him easily on pace for the most efficient season of his 10-year career. The 33-year-old Brock, who retired before the 2021 season prior to changing his mind and returning, now has 546 career goals, 228 clear of Atlanta’s Matt Smith, who’s second on the all-time list. The AlleyCats host Pittsburgh this weekend, and Brock will certainly become the first player in AUDL history to reach 800 scores in his career. Adding in his 253 assists, Brock has 799 scores heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Thunderbirds.
There are plenty of brothers who are teammates, and we’ve seen brothers go head-to-head on rival teams several times in AUDL history. In fact, the Reinhardts, Austin’s Jake and Dallas’ Tyler, squared off against one another this past weekend.
But coming up this Saturday, we’ve got the first ever Father vs. Son AUDL showdown. It’ll occur in Denver, when the Colorado Summit face the Los Angeles Aviators and one women’s Landesman loyalty gets put to the ultimate test.
Does she root for her husband or her son?
“I wanna see my boy do well,” said Laura Wheeler, the wife of Los Angeles Coach Jeff Landesman and mother to Colorado’s Danny Landesman.
Just in case it wasn’t clear which boy she meant, she quickly clarified.
“Which boy? The one I gave birth to.”
As for dad, he seemed to understand his wife’s choice, and he knows it’ll be a different feeling than he’s ever had before.