The San Francisco Dogfish kicked off their 2014 MLU season on Saturday with a 18-16 victory against the Seattle Rainmakers.
Although they faced each other in last year’s Western Conference playoffs, these were two very different teams today. The Dogfish repeatedly struggled to move the disc upfield, while the Rainmakers had several throwaways and drops. Dogfish veterans Evan Boucher, Mac Taylor and Jordan Jeffery kept their team in the game the first quarter, while Sam Harkness served as the rock for the Rainmakers, who took the quarter 6-4.
In the second quarter, the Dogfish turned up the heat on defense. Like last year, their double-team strategy paid off, forcing Rainmaker turnovers. Taylor, Jeffery and fellow veteran James Pollard were solid, and rookies Aaron Caulfield and Aaron Weaver made plays that distinguished them as players to watch this season. Harkness once again ruled for the Rainmakers in the second.
The Dogfish ended the half tied with the Rainmakers, 10-10 .
Coming out of halftime, the Dogfish scored, but seemed to let up on defense. The Rainmakers worked the disc back and forth across the field easily and even scored on a blade throw to an unintended (and open) receiver. Things seemed to be going Seattle’s way, inspiring Donnie Clark to do a couple of end-zone flips in the middle of what was to be a four-point run for the Rainmakers. But the Dogfish weren’t done yet. Taylor continued to come down with high discs and Weaver seemed to be everywhere on offense. Despite strong Rainmaker defense, including a great layout block by Matthew Zemel, the Dogfish gained the lead and the quarter ended with San Francisco ahead 16-15.
By the fourth quarter, both teams were visibly hungry for the win. The game took on a frenetic pace at times, with several points featuring turn after turn as defense clamped down and offense took more risks. Dogfish players Kohji Sugioka and Sam Adamson both had great defensive blocks to gain San Francisco possession. As the time ticked down, Taylor came down with a long throw that had gone high, and Jeffery threw to Tyler Grant to take the Dogfish to 17-16. Chris Hart threw a hammer to Dan Bellinger, who made an incredible layout bid to score with 1:53 remaining. The Dogfish held off the Rainmakers to end the game 18-16.
Like last season, the wind at Boxer Stadium seemed to know just when to sneak in to disrupt game play. Traditionally the Dogfish offensive line operates like a juggernaut even in challenging conditions, but today’s game revealed fractures in San Francisco’s timing and flow.
“We need to work on our offensive efficiency, said Dogfish Assistant Coach Matt Ruby. “We had multiple turnovers on defense and we weren’t able to capitalize on them.”
The Dogfish face the Rainmakers again next Saturday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. in Seattle, the first game of a double-header that continues on Sunday against the Vancouver Nighthawks at 2:00 p.m.