By Bailey Saul
June 19, 2021
Quick Personal Note: With apologies to the Phoenix faithful for the delay in this summary, your humble reporter was attending the wedding of his youngest son, Isaac to his sweetheart Phoebe in central New York. This would not be worth mentioning here but for the fact that (I am proud to say) there were enough ultimate players there to make at least three or four very good lines, including Alex Thorne of the Phoenix, for whom Dustin Damiano filled in admirably at center handler this weekend. I’m doing the breakdown off the game tape, (available on AUDL.TV) which accounts for this delay. So thank you for your patience. And yes, the wedding was terrific!
PHILADELPHIA - On an overcast night in South Philadelphia, The Phoenix took on 0-3 Pittsburgh on Saturday for only their second game, after the postponement of the Empire game last Friday.
Pittsburgh played the Empire the night before their Philly game and it showed in the early going as rookie Max Charles hit Sean Mott for an easy 50 yard backhand down the near sideline for the first score only 19 seconds in. The Thunderbirds dropped the disc near midfield on their next possession as Dusty Rhodes’ admonition that both teams had to avoid unforced errors went unheeded by the visitors, and very nearly the home team, too. On the 8th or 9th throw, Nardelli put a soft outside flick that scooted past a diving Jake Butrica, who got a hand on it but couldn’t hold on, and it was saved by Eric Witmer coming out of the end zone to preserve the possession and get the break a few seconds later on Butrica’s short throw to Owens, who faked his coverage out badly to get open for the score, 2-0 Phoenix.
Pittsburgh then turned it again on a bad dump pass that was picked up by fifth year Phoenix veteran Matt Esser, but a Brandon Lamberty outside shot to the end zone went a hair too far for Nick DiGiorgio and Pittsburgh came back out of their end zone and took their first deep shot for yet another turnover, as Brandon Pastor D’d it up at the Phoenix ten yard line. But Philly turned it again, as Ian Dietrich went long for Pastor who jumped a bit early as the disc hung up and then was knocked down.
The ensuing deep shot by Pittsburgh seemed to be caught out of bounds around the 12, but Sean Mott called a pushing foul on himself, which gave the disc to Anson Reppermund at the two. His last second hammer was D’d by Dietrich in the end zone, but the Phoenix gave it right back on a floaty DiGiorgio swing that was stolen at the 5 and became Pittsburgh’s first goal, 2-1.
The Phoenix managed to work a minute and a half in front of the Pittsburgh end zone before Dustin Damiano finally found Mike Arcata for a leaping catch seven yards deep and toes in on the far sideline, for a 3-1 lead. The T-birds turnover woes continued with a drop near midfield but Philly turned it right back on a deep shot from Pollard to Nate Little that was just high enough even Little couldn’t reel it in. Pittsburgh came back with a deep shot to Owen Watt that Pollard almost got to, but couldn’t, 3-2.
Philadelphia answered after turning it yet again on a Heyman drop off an in cut when Pittsburgh turned it right back after a great high catch at the 3 yard line and a swing pass that was dropped at the 3. Mott found Greg Martin who came up with a great position catch at the 2 and an easy drop in to Scott Heyman, 4-2 Philly.
The Phoenix pull went OB, and after a couple of fouls got Pittsburgh to the center of the goal line, they put it in for 4-3, with C.J. Colicchio throwing all 3 T-bird assists. But the Phoenix moved it to Mott at midfield and he found a wide open Scott Heyman with a perfect flick to the back half of the end zone for a 5-3 lead. Pittsburgh got their 4th goal off a workmanlike point from Towle to Edmunds, 5-4.
Philly got it back with just under a minute left in Q1, but Arcata’s 20 yarder to Sands went too far and Pittsburgh took a shot the other way with a few seconds left that was defended by Greg Martin to end the first quarter still 5-4.
Eric Witmer opened the second with a D over the receiver’s shoulder on a short pass deep in Pitt territory and a quick bookends catch in the end zone to make it 6-4. Pittsburgh scored after several midfield throws with a 50 yard Crossfield flick to make it 6-5. They attempted a zone defense that Damiano, Martin, Sands and Charles worked through well to get to midfield before Arcata saw Mott at the 2 and hit him with a cross field hammer as he backed in for 7-5. Then Philadelphia got another break after a bad drop when Brandon Lamberty found Witmer deep for an easy backhand huck and 8-5.
Pittsburgh showed a spark when Sam Van Dusen found Davis deep on the 4th throw of their next possession, and the best throw of the night to that point, to get one back and make it 8-6, but the Phoenix got it back very quickly when Sands found Mike Arcata deep for 9-6. On the next series Pittsburgh turned it again on a deep overthrow at their 5 and Colicchio had to leave the field after a hard landing off his bid for the overthrow.
Pittsburgh put on some hard double teams on the next Philly point, only to watch the Phoenix scoober and hammer their way out of trouble until Mott had an easy lefty flick to Greg Martin to go up four at 10-6. Pittsburgh came back very quickly on lax D by Philly for a long score and 10-7. Then Damiano shot a waist high backhand to Heyman for 11-7, and Colicchio saw his receiver decide to try harder too late, on a beautiful pass that hung plenty long enough to get caught but was misread on its release.
The Phoenix called a time out and as the commercial ended Greg Martin was catching a score from Nardelli for another break and a 5 goal lead, 12-7. Then the wheels seemed to come off for the Thunderbirds as they dropped their first pass on the next point and Matt Esser found Nick DiGiorgio in the end zone for the one throw score and 13-7 with 3:35 left in the first half. Towle dropped the next possession but Esser turfed Philly’s first throw to give it back and Pittsburgh cashed in when Sheppard made a great catch of a slow hammer for their 8th goal, 13-8.
Greg Martin led Arcata who passed his defender and took the inside position to snap the goal away from the D, 14-8. Ian Dietrich got a layout block before Michel couldn’t hold on and Pittsburgh got one back from Colicchio with 40 seconds left in the half and his first goal. Mott appeared to throw it out of bounds but got it back on a foul and passed to Arcata who found Martin for the easy backhand and a 15-9 lead with nine seconds.
Pittsburgh pulled to Philadelphia to open the second half and the Phoenix took it deep quickly on a Sands huck to Martin 7 yards out of the end zone, but turned it over when Dustin threw back high to Mott. As Pittsburgh took over one could see a Pitt player get up and kind of shove Scott Heyman only to get a smile and pat on the back, as the college teammates greeted each other on the field with a laugh and a low five. Mott overthrew Martin in the end zone but Van Dusen threw OB to turn it again and the Phoenix finally converted with Damiano’s third assist, to Charles and the first score of the half after 3 minutes of play at 16-9. Colicchio then out jumped DiGiorgio and boxed him out for the score at 16-10.
After the Pittsburgh pull got turfed at midfield, Mott threw a score to Heyman for his third goal, who caught it despite contact from behind to get to 17-10. Towle found Colicchio to finally get Pittsburgh their second score of the half. Arcata’s deep throw was defended and returned air mail to an empty field and an Arcata catch that was worked back to midfield before Marc Sands dropped a dime to Martin for 18-11 halfway through the third.
Colicchio got the short goal from five yards out to get to 12 against Phoenix’s 18. Pittsburgh threw an ill-advised sideline pull short to midfield so they could double team the thrower. This resulted in a contact foul that gave Damiano the ten yards he needed to make his 4th assist easier, on a pretty shot to Martin that just got over the defender. 19-12.
Pittsburgh scored again after several good defensive plays and turns by each side on a catch after contact for the score, 19-13 off Colicchio’s fifth assist of the night. Then Max Charles made a diving catch to save the Phoenix possession and got up and threw to Sands for the score, 20-13. Next, Brandon Pastor made a great run through D only to have the same thing happen to him one throw later that led to a score from Edmunds to Sheppard (his 4th) and a 20-14 score.
Pittsburgh continued what to me was not really a winning strategy with another midfield sideline pull so they could put a hard double team on, but it only went 26 yards and resulted in a contact foul (again) that gave Mott the disc at the Thunderbird 25. He dropped it off to Heyman who put a bladey flick into the end zone that Mott took in with ease to go up by a touchdown, 21-14. But he was bumped again from behind and grabbed, ostensibly to keep him from falling, just after the catch, and took umbrage with the defender by spiking the disc at his feet. This was the same defender who had just fouled him and resulted in a delay of game penalty against the home team, which seemed a little silly since refs were still talking about the play.
Regardless, Philly pulled from the back line of their end zone with 25 seconds left in the 3rd on the twenty yard penalty. But the T-birds turned it on their very first throw into Butrica’s hands and he got off a throw leading Mott into the goal but it was poached by Owens cutting across the back, with only 5 seconds left, for a 22-14 lead.
Pittsburgh took the pull to Philadelphia’s 30 or so but turned it over to Lamberty about 45 seconds into the fourth quarter and they worked it back the other way for a Nardelli to Pastor score, 23-14. Pittsburgh finally got to 15 with a nice working point ending to Anthony ‘Sparky’ Davis, 23-15. Philly responded with a Mott to Sands pass that Marc had to tip to himself, just avoiding a defender’s late bid. 24-15. Colicchio then got loose for a hanging huck he took easily over two late arriving defenders, 24-16.
On the ensuing point Arcata let a shot go for Martin that was tipped, bounced off his head as he fell, and he scooped with his left hand about six inches off the ground for the goal on the unlikeliest catch of the night and a nine goal lead at 25-16. Following turnovers on consecutive throws by Pittsburgh to Nardelli and then Nardelli to Pittsburgh, the T-birds couldn’t get to a deep shot at the back line. Then Colicchio got a great D but Pittsburgh threw it away deep on a Philadelphia pick in the end zone.
After both teams turned it over again on deep shots, the Phoenix burned almost two minutes off the clock and finished with an easy, leading Arcata backhand to get Martin’s 5th goal and a ten point lead, 26-16. Pittsburgh turned it yet again, this time on a high count throw Allan Michel swiped, but the Phoenix turned it back over on a too high hammer before Pittsburgh finally ended the point with under two minutes left, 26-17. Philadelphia worked a minute plus off the clock before Damiano turfed a swing pass with 0:46 left and the T-birds committed an offensive foul on a goal that was brought back but scored immediately to Sheppard for his 6th goal of the night, 26-18.
Then Philadelphia worked it back up for another Arcata to Martin score with ten seconds left for Martin’s 6th goal, 27-18. Pittsburgh worked it down close but missed their final shot to the goal and 27-18 was the final, in a dominant win to go 2-0 to start Philadelphia’s 2021 season. The Phoenix now look ahead to a five game road swing against some tough teams in the next month, two back to backs, first next weekend at Raleigh and Atlanta, then a single game weekend rematch in Pittsburgh before the following week’s back to back at New York and Boston.
The next home game will be hosting the Atlanta Hustle on Friday July 19th, 7:30 at the South Philly supersite.
Stat Leaders: Assists: 5, S.Mott. Goals: 6, G. Martin. Blocks: 2, B. Lamberty, B. Pastor, A. Michel
Completions: 50, D. Damiano. Points played: 24, S. Mott and M. Sands. Plus/Minus: 10, G. Martin.
Team Stats: Philadelphia led in all but red zone conversion, 7 of 9 for Pitt, v. 14 of 19 for Phil, who had twice as many red zone visits. Hucks, 77% to 58%, Offensive Holds, 72% to 45%, Blocks, 15-7, Defensive Breaks, 39% (9/23) to 0% (0/5) and Turnovers, 20 to 22.
Want to relive the action? Head to AUDL.tv and subscribe today to watch every Phoenix game from the past two seasons.