After dominating the Portland Stags 31-13 last weekend and beating the Vancouver Nighthawks 23-13 three weeks ago, the San Francisco Dogfish have sent a clear signal about their goal for 2013: they’re “in it to win it.” This weekend the Dogfish play the Nighthawks for the third time this season.

The Dogfish first met the Canadian team on the Nighthawks’ home turf in a nail-biter that saw  San Francisco came from behind to take the win 18-17. When the teams met again three weeks ago,  the Nighthawks fell victim to both the unpredictable wind at Boxer Stadium and a Dogfish team determined to make a convincing statement after a loss to Portland the week before.

This week the Nighthawks are coming off a bye after the 21-15 loss to the Seattle Rainmakers that knocked them out of playoffs contention. This will be the fourth game in a row they’ve played against either the Dogfish or the Rainmakers, and they may have something to prove.

Nighthawks Coach Andrew Lugsdin has noted that they want to continue to develop players,  get better as a team, and play well for the fans in these last few games. The lessened pressure may provide an opportunity for them to mix things up. The Dogfish know from experience how motivated bench players can be when given the opportunity to shine.

Although the Dogfish won in Vancouver the last time they played there, the Nighthawks’ home crowd this weekend will consist not only of their usual fans, but participants of the nearby Flower Bowl tournament, which includes teams from Canada, Washington and Oregon. Wherever their loyalties may lie, these experienced spectators will be spurring both teams to play their best possible game.

The Dogfish need to continue to use what’s been working. The Nighthawks are a talented defensive team. They may or may not have defensive strongman Morgan Hibbert back in the game this week, but they showed no hesitation across the board on layout bids in their game against the Rainmakers. The Dogfish have a solid offense that’s not always fancy but also avoids the turnover risk of disc play with more flair.

On offense the Nighthawks play hard but then have a tendency to lapse in intensity at some point in each game. The Dogfish need to be ready to recognize these moments and capitalize. The conditions will probably be calmer at Thunderbird Stadium than in the windy San Francisco stadiums, so the Dogfish need to look for Vancouver’s long game and make mental adjustments for a defense that’s not wind-assisted.

At the end of the day, both teams know where they stand in the conference; this is not a battle for a playoff berth. Yet fans should expect a strong display of Ultimate from two teams that each respect each other’s strengths and can use this meeting as a chance to build upon their previous games.

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