Photo by Rodney Chen – UltiPhotos.com
The San Francisco Dogfish defeated the Portland Stags on Sunday, 18-17 at Yellowjacket Stadium in Berkeley.
The Dogfish took the first point of the game on a defensive break, then traded points with the Stags for most of the quarter. The Stags gained a two-point lead in the second quarter and held a three-point lead briefly in the third before the Dogfish brought it back within two. By the fourth quarter both teams were playing at an accelerated but confident pace. The Dogfish surged ahead to tie at 17, then capitalized on a Stags turn to go up by one. With 30 seconds remaining the Dogfish clamped down on defense and got a layout block at the Stags end zone to seal San Francisco’s win at 18-17.
Gabe Saunkeah was the star of the San Francisco squad this week, racking up five assists, two goals and three blocks. Thomas Adams had a solid game putting defensive pressure on Portland while Ian Ranahan (one assist, one goal, one block), Taylor Cascino (three goals), Nick Weiss (two assists, one block) and Andrew Hooker (one assist, one goal, two blocks) were making connections on offense that looked effortless.
The Stags had a solid offensive line with Tad Jensen (three goals), Tyler Cable (one goal) and Steve Kenton’s high-release breakmark flicks holding down the backfield. But Portland’s star of the game was indisputably Cody Bjorklund, who had seven assists, two goals and one defensive block. Bjorklund put up some amazing hammers and long shots to his team, and it may have been his absence from the field that at times helped the Dogfish to make gains.
Like the last time these two teams faced each other, the Dogfish got a block early in the first quarter, but it was no easy task to get the score. Four more turnovers followed: a missed dump pass by the Dogfish, a dropped hammer by the Stags, a Dogfish throwaway and another Stags drop. The Dogfish took the lead 1-0, and both teams settled into more picturesque offense, trading points and keeping even defensive pressure. After another five-turnover point, however, the Stags got their first lead of the game and ended the quarter ahead, 4-3.
The second quarter continued much like the first, with points traded and a couple of tied scores. The Stags may have been off their game a bit in the first quarter due to a delayed flight and traffic woes, but they had clearly shaken it off by the second period. Both teams displayed moments of brilliant disc work, but the Dogfish were called for two travels and, despite a Stags turnover for calling a timeout when they had none left, Portland maintained a one-point lead going into half, 8-7.
By the third quarter the play was increasing in speed and tensions were mounting. Points were lasting 90 seconds or less until, with just over three minutes remaining in the quarter, the teams battled through a longer point and the Stags emerged with a three-point lead. Despite a half-field pull by the Stags, the Dogfish scored and then got the defensive stop to end the quarter behind by just two, 15-13.
In the fourth quarter things seemed to be playing out like the preceding periods. The points were quicker, the defense more aggressive and both teams gave the fans an exciting show of great ultimate. Halfway through the quarter the Dogfish and Stags battled it out again on a longer point, with San Francisco coming out on top but still trailing 17-16. A penalty from the preceding point gave the Dogfish a pull advantage. San Francisco got a block, called a critical timeout before a turnover, and scored to tie the game at 17 with 2:18 remaining. The Stags worked the disc briefly, then a big hammer by Bjorklund ended in a turnover, and the Dogfish capitalized to take the lead.
The beginning and end of the Dogfish journey in the fourth quarter belonged to Hooker. In the first point of the period he got a layout block at the endzone that allowed the Dogfish to bring the game within one. And with 30 seconds remaining in the game he got another block at the endzone that gave the Dogfish possession and locked in their lead to win the game, 18-17.
The win puts the Dogfish at 2-4 and the previously undefeated Stags at 5-1. The Dogfish showed the strength of their physical and mental game in this matchup.
“We had a renewed focus on offense; a new game plan from the coaches that the team executed,” said Ranahan. “Most of our problems this season have been internal. It matters what they [Dogfish opponents] do, but it matters more what we do.”
Next week the Dogfish have a bye before facing the Stags again on the road on June 6.