The San Francisco Dogfish used a fourth-quarter rally to pull out a 14-11 win against the Portland Stags at the San Francisco home opener on Saturday.
A sunny but windy day saw a big crowd at Boxer Stadium. Around 1,200 Ultimate fans of all ages were in attendance. High school and college players, parents with their kids, and enthusiasts brand new to the game bolstered a raucous Ultimate community.
The Dogfish won the coin toss and jumped out early, getting a break on the second point of the game to go up 2-0. That one break point would be the only gap between the teams for most of the game.
Both teams seemed jumpy at the start, resulting in drops and hasty decisions. The first point alone saw Cassidy Rasmussen put an easy throw into the turf and Beau Kittredge drop a disk near the end zone. The Stags matched those turns with two rushed hammers that should have been scores.
The teams traded points from 2-1 all the way through the third quarter, which ended with the Dogfish ahead 9-8.
During that period, turnovers provided both teams several opportunities to take command of the game, but neither could capitalize. Each team’s defensive strengths got the better of the offensive side, and the wind was definitely a factor. There was an eleven-point stretch where neither team could convert a downwind score. The breeze would push big throws long or cause a slow-spinning disc to sink faster than expected. Players were more cautious and had more control throwing into the wind when it was really gusting.
In these conditions, the Dogfish had trouble executing consistently against an athletic Stag team. Stag defenders generated a lot of turns by forcing Dogfish handlers to work hard for short yardage, and the Stags won their match-ups in the air on many Dogfish hucks.
On the other hand, the experienced Dogfish crew forced the Stags to take risky shots. The Dogfish made the Stags’ hucks difficult enough to put them repeatedly just out of reach. The Dogfish also put the Stags into situations where they were forcing throws high in the stall count.
At the end of the third quarter, the Stags seemed on the verge of drawing even and putting a lot of pressure on the Dogfish, but two plays went the wrong way. With the Dogfish up 8-7, a beautiful downwind huck by the Stags for a score was called an offensive foul when contact put the Dogfish defender Sam Kanner on the ground. At 9-8 another huck for a score ended up just out of reach when two Stags seemed to get in each other’s way.
In the fourth quarter, Dogfish strategic decisions led to a run that pretty much put the game away. Throughout the game, the Dogfish used the double-team to great result. Coming out of time-outs the Stag offense was often derailed by the presence of multiple marks on the thrower.
To start the fourth, the Dogfish brought a zone that doubled the handler and trapped the Stags on the sideline. The Stag thrower had an open Cody Bjorklund deep, but the difficult mark made the throw turn enough that the wind got under the disc and no one could catch it. The Dogfish converted that turn to go up 10-8 on a Mac Taylor huck to Tyler Grant. Another sideline trap ended up in a Stag travel and the Dogfish moved to 11-8. Finally the Stags turned the disc over on a deep shot into a height mismatch with Martin Cochran, and the Dogfish got their third break in a row. The Stags broke back to make it 13-10, but by that point they had run out of clock. The Dogfish ended up maintaining possession on their offensive points and pulled out the win 14-11.
Both players and fans were excited by the event. Dogfish and Stags had fun on the field and enjoyed the crowd’s response to big plays. The venue provided a great place to play and spectators were treated to quality Ultimate right in the city. The game featured entertaining antics between quarters, including a t-shirt cannon and a dance-off with Dogfish mascot, Dougie the Dogfish (who still needs to be taught how to Dougie).
The Dogfish next home game is Saturday, May 4 at Kezar stadium at 7 PM. Hope to see you there.