The San Francisco Dogfish and the Seattle Rainmakers play at Kezar Stadium on Saturday at 7 pm. It will be just the second time this season the two teams face off, but with both teams at the top of the MLU Western Conference, this game is a preview of the conference playoffs.

In their first matchup, the Rainmakers came out strong against the Dogfish and took the first half with a five-point lead. The Dogfish turned it around in the second half with more energy on offense and a zone defense that put the brakes on Seattle’s quick offense. Both teams played that first game without some of their key athletes. This week both teams are down players again. The Dogfish are notably without their Team USA players including star Beau Kittredge and the Rainmakers are without Phil Murray, an important cutter on offense and a spirit leader in the last few Rainmakers games.

Seattle is coming off a bye weekend and has doubtless taken some time to review and reflect on how best to rattle San Francisco’s steadfast style. Part of that strategy could be how to exploit the holes in the Dogfish roster. But with the Rainmakers’ own ranks depleted and the Dogfish bench thoroughly tested in similar situations, Seattle needs to see possession of the disc as more valuable than racking up digits on the scoreboard.

The Rainmakers’ playbook has been to get breaks early and often in the game to stay in the lead. At the beginning of the season they looked to power the disc straight up the field. Over the course of the season they’ve expanded their range to take advantage of the full field and upped their ability to play as hard in the second half of the game as they do in the first half.

The Dogfish can match the Rainmakers on the ground and beat them in the sky. The Fish need to demonstrate their usual patience on offense against Seattle’s aggressive man defense, and be judicious about trying to run Seattle into the ground or out-jump them on high throws, especially with their own smaller squad. The wind has been a key factor in San Francisco’s home games, and the Rainmakers have only faced the unpredictable San Francisco swirl once before. The Dogfish need to capitalize early on Rainmaker turnovers.

The Rainmakers’ one loss is to the Dogfish, and that will be a weight coming into this game. The Dogfish’s one loss is to the Portland Stags, who they dispatched 31-13 in a subsequent game to confirm that they did not like to lose. They followed that with an away-game victory over the Vancouver Nighthawks that showed they were tired of 1- and 2-point victories. Expect to see that kind of Dogfish determination this weekend.

The Dogfish can also count on a lot of sideline support this weekend with a Fan Appreciation Night game theme. Special group ticket packages, a Dogfish Fan Mini-Olympiad Halftime Challenge, and raffles throughout the evening will keep the crowd energized and eager to see another solid win.

The challenge for both teams will be to treat this game as an opportunity to test the other team’s capabilities instead of a must-win predictor of the playoff outcome. They will meet again in Seattle on June 23, the last game for both teams to gain the psychological edge before their showdown in the playoffs.

For San Francisco fans, this is the last home game of the regular season. Tickets are still available. The game starts at 7 pm, but fans are encouraged to arrive early to take advantage of raffle incentives. Entry will be through the west gate (opposite from the parking lot).

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