On Saturday the San Francisco Dogfish (2-5) face the Portland Stags (4-1) for the third time this season. With only three games remaining, the Dogfish are eager for a win in their quest to break even in 2014.

Both losses to the Stags this year came through final-quarter runs by Portland. In week three, the Dogfish lost 18-16 in overtime after being up for three quarters of the game. The following week they were on the road and down in numbers, but managed to stay with the Stags until the fourth quarter, when they lost 21-17.

In those games the Dogfish stats were dominated by a couple of players: Mac Taylor and Aaron Caulfield in week three, and Sam Adamson and Drew Kim in week four. Since then there have been plenty of big plays by even more members of the team. One of the keys to winning on Saturday is capitalizing on the tried and true as well as the new connections. That will be particularly important this week because half of the Dogfish squad is either inactive or injured, including Taylor and Caulfield (see the full Dogfish Injury Report here).

Portland’s play against San Francisco has largely featured the same cast of characters: Cody Bjorklund, Breeze Strout, Eli Friedman, Grant Cole, Jeremy Norden and Mark Burton. Friedman is in the MLU top ten for points, goals and throws, and leads the league in throwing percentage. The Stags will also be riding high after Plays of the Week by Topher Davis and Raphy Hayes.

San Francisco’s not-so-secret weapon this season has been their defense. Formidable as a double-teaming pack, it’s even more sobering to see that four Dogfish players – Evan Brydon, Evan Boucher, Chris McCarty and Jackson Stearns – are in the MLU’s top ten for defense. Team captain Boucher is inactive this week, but look for the others to further cement their status on Saturday against the Portland offense.

San Francisco has struggled this season to consistently convert on their turns. But their recent win over the Vancouver Nighthawks in a ridiculously windy bout at Boxer Stadium showed they have the tenacity and talent, and are fully capable to pull out a win against the Stags. The real challenge for Head Coach Justin Safdie and the team is not dealing with low numbers, but scoring early, often and maintaining the intensity they’ve shown in the early quarters of other games.

If you will be around Portland to see the action firsthand at Mt. Hood Community College Stadium, buy your tickets here.

Otherwise, follow the Portland Stags Twitter for live scoring updates from the game.

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