The San Francisco Dogfish won their last regular season home game against the Vancouver Nighthawks, 16-14, at Yellowjacket Stadium in Berkeley on Sunday.
The game began with a series of turnovers, but once San Francisco gained the lead they didn’t look back. The Dogfish went up by three in the first quarter, then the Nighthawks pulled within one. The teams traded points into the second quarter until the Dogfish gained a two-point lead and maintained that into half. In the third quarter the Dogfish widened their lead to as much as five and closed out the quarter ahead by four. The Nighthawks closed the gap again in the fourth quarter but couldn’t come closer than two by game’s end.
The Dogfish had a numbers advantage and were able to move players freely throughout their rotation. The Nighthawks were not as lucky and played with a much smaller squad. Lower numbers and a capricious wind may have hampered the Nighthawks some, but they never gave up the fight. William Vu, Nathan Lam, Dave Hochhalter, Tierney FitzGerald and Ari Nitikman did an impressive job handling the disc. And with a near-constant presence on the field, Morgan Hibbert ran the backfield and the upfield game tirelessly.
Despite the sunny day, the wind made its presence known in today’s game, leading to points that were alternately unexpectedly long and blessedly short. Both teams played a fairly physical game, and some of the most exciting moments were watching the two team captains—Hibbert and Dogfish Jackson Stearns—match up against each other. With three assists, a goal and two blocks, Stearns was a definite leader on the field, and off the field he took a moment after halftime to thank the fans and lead them in a cheer.
With the exception of the first point, which featured six turnovers in less than three minutes, both teams played solid and conservative ultimate in the first quarter. The Dogfish capitalized on their momentum after winning the first point and pulled ahead of the Nighthawks by three. With 2:14 left in the quarter the teams began what looked like another high-turnover point until the Nighthawks took the Dogfish for a ride with a fast-paced point of perfectly executed cuts and throws that put them within two. The Dogfish held the Nighthawks there and ended the quarter ahead, 4-2.
Throughout the second quarter the teams traded points. The Nighthawks threw a zone that caused a Dogfish turnover and both teams opened things up with some longer riskier throws, to mixed results impuissance viagra naturel. There were four fouls, two drops and two stalls in this quarter as defense on both sides turned up the pressure, but the Dogfish kept their cool and entered half still up by two at 6-4.
“The back half of the season has been focused on fired-up offense and making sure the fundamentals are there,” said Dogfish cutter James Sheridan. “When the fundamentals have been there, the games have been going the way we want them.”
This was highly evident in the third quarter, where the Dogfish widened their lead to as much as five. A looser Nighthawks zone proved ineffective this time around, and the Dogfish took advantage of the holes and two travel calls to make the leap in the score. The Nighthawks seemed to work better under pressure, and, following a timeout and half-field pull by the Dogfish late in the quarter, Vancouver worked the disc calmly up the field for a goal. It was enough to keep them within four, and the quarter ended in San Francisco’s favor, 12-8.
The fourth quarter saw much of the same back-and-forth scoring initially, with an upward tick in fouls and unforced errors. With 3:52 remaining the Dogfish tried another half-field pull and Stearns had an incredible layout block in the end zone that put the Dogfish up by five. The Nighthawks proved their mettle with a three-point run, including Charles Eyrich’s great one-handed grab of a disc that was thrown behind him.
With 1:45 remaining the Nighthawks were only down by two, but their pull blew backward to the 50-yard line and a series of turns followed, including a travel and foul in San Francisco’s favor, leaving the Dogfish up by three. The Nighthawks battled back from a turnover, and travel and foul calls on the Dogfish put Vancouver back within two. But with only five seconds remaining in the game, the Dogfish held onto the disc after the pull and held onto the lead to take the win, 16-14.
Today’s victory puts the Dogfish at 3-5 and within striking distance of the second MLU Western Conference bid. But the team isn’t taking anything for granted, particularly how today’s outcome influences planning for next week.
“I don’t think today’s win really affects anything. We go into each and every game fired up, ready to play and we take them one game at a time,” said Sheridan. “By doing that we hope to take it all in the Western Conference Championships.”
The Dogfish play their last two games of the regular season in a double-header on the road next weekend, facing the Nighthawks again on Saturday and the Seattle Rainmakers on Sunday.