The San Francisco Dogfish won their season opener at home against the Vancouver Nighthawks, 15-14.
San Francisco got a break in the first point of the game and, after trading with the Nighthawks for the next two quarters, ended the first half up by one point, 9-8. In the middle of the third quarter Vancouver took a one-point lead, but San Francisco came back to score four in a row. The Nighthawks rallied on some long efforts and scored three of the next four points, but it was too late for them to force it into overtime or pull ahead and take the game away from the Dogfish.
As expected, the Dogfish defense had a strong showing in this game. David Abram, absent last season but back for season three, set the tone with a block and assist in the first point and another block and assist later in the first quarter. Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator Liz Penny has clearly amplified the impact of an already formidable defensive squad.
The Dogfish offense looked much improved from last season, with confident full-field swings and ample patience. Evan Boucher and the disc were in regular mutual orbit, and he had three assists this game. Team captain Jackson Stearns had a goal and an assist, along with some spectacular midfield layout grabs that kept the Dogfish on the right course. And Dogfish rookie Thomas Pineda showed off his speed on two streaking scores.
“Focusing on more practices helped build the team dynamic,” said Dogfish rookie Raj Maitra. “We have been hanging out so much; it has really brought up the friendship and camaraderie, and that helped us.”
The Nighthawks defense was effective, with most of it running through Morgan Hibbert as expected. Their offense, by contrast, looked like it was repeatedly stuck. Kirk Savage was the anchor for Vancouver’s handling squad, but there were more tense moments than not where it seemed the disc would not progress beyond the back line.
Nighthawks rookie Ted Chu was a standout player on offense and defense, with three goals, two defensive blocks and a couple of layout bids. Despite the space opened up by Vancouver’s vertical stack, the aggressive Dogfish defense seemed to stymie many of the Nighthawks larger looks, forcing them into risky hucks and scoobers.
The wind was still a factor—not as punishing as in past home games, but discs that would normally find their mark met the turf, and throws that would normally peter out hung on and on. In a fast-moving game like the one the Dogfish and Nighthawks played today, the wind played its part.
In the first quarter the Nighthawks seemed to be getting their legs under them. They gave up the first point to the Dogfish then suffered through an interception, a stall, a drop and a couple of throwaways. On the last point scored in the quarter Vancouver allowed San Francisco to advance three quarters of the way up the field before playing significant defense. The Dogfish ended the period in the lead 5-4.
Although the Dogfish had a drop and a couple of throwaways in the first quarter, things got messier in the second quarter with four San Francisco turnovers, including one after they brought the disc to midfield after an offside call on Vancouver. The Nighthawks showed flashes of strong offense, but continued to turn it over on long throws and hammers. A significant portion of this quarter was eaten up by the third point, which featured two layouts on offense by Stearns, a foul call on each team and back-to-back turnovers. The Nighthawks won that battle but ended the quarter down by one, 8-9.
Only five points were scored in the third quarter. In fact, only five full points were played in the third quarter. Three went to the Nighthawks, eventually giving them their first lead of the game. One crowd-pleaser came in the second point of the quarter, when Drew Kim skied Hibbert to catch a huck from Matt Kissman. The Dogfish subsequently gave away—then regained—the disc for their first goal of the quarter. Three points later, following a Dogfish throwaway, Hibbert was called for a travel, setting an uneasy tone that eventually led to a Dogfish score and left the game tied at 11-11 going into the final quarter.
The first two points of the fourth quarter were difficult for Vancouver. In the first point they were called for two offensive fouls, resulting in turnovers. In the second point Dogfish defense forced a stall and, following a San Francisco turnover on a dump throw, Hibbert had an uncharacteristic stumble and missed a disc. The Dogfish scored those two points and the one following, putting them into a comfortable three-point lead. Yet with 4:33 still remaining in the game Vancouver was not ready to call it a day.
Hibbert, William Vu and Brendan Wong dominated the next point with Wong scoring off an assist from Vu. The Dogfish answered with an easy score, but both teams struggled on the next point. Savage sent up a great huck that was eaten up by Sam Adamson on man defense. The Dogfish worked to slow things down but found themselves back on defense after a drop. A huck by Savage was incomplete, and a huck by the Dogfish sent Kim out of the game with a shoulder injury. Following a turn by the Nighthawks, Vancouver scored off a defensive tip by San Francisco. The Dogfish were unlucky on the next point as a swing throw to Boucher was called down, and the Nighthawks scored on a long, high throw to Wong.
Unfortunately the back-and-forth plays ate up too much time, and when San Francisco received the disc with 23 seconds remaining, they were able to run down the clock on swings and walk away with the 15-14 win.
“Offensively we made far more mistakes than I would care to make,” said Assistant Coach and Offensive Coordinator Matt Ruby. “For a lot of these guys, this is their first real MLU game. I think there were some jitters here and there, but I’m happy with our win today.”
The Dogfish play at home again next weekend against the 1-0 Portland Stags. Buy your tickets here.