Game 3 Recap
Slow Start, All Heart
It wasn’t the start we had in mind, or even talked about, but it’s where we landed and where we had to dig out of. Sure, the first point given up was tough to swallow as the aviators made a careless error and gave up a break in the first 30 seconds of the game. And then again. And then again. And then again. Now we were facing a quicksand situation down 6-0 and not sure if we can climb out. The first quarter ended 7-1. This team always believed we would win, and they took that 1st quarter break to gather themselves and eliminate the mistakes. It was clear they were not getting outplayed, the stats would reveal it was just throwaways and drops. Those got cleaned up immediately, and the D-line started to get breaks. The box score reveals a 18-13 score in the final 3 quarters and the Aviators true grit, determination and heart was shown in the 4th quarter when they scored 5 un-answered points. Tied at 19, the Spiders had the disc moving and Zac Schakner made a spectacular lay-out D, but it was turned over by a very skeptical foul call. (Video evidence would have overruled the call as there was no contact made). with 25 seconds left the Spiders were able to work the disc and make a very long up-wind shot to put them up 20-19 with 2 seconds on the clock. The Aviators we’re not able to make the Hail Mary connection, and time ran out.
The Aviators should never be okay with losing, but takeaways from this game are abundant. We proved our ability to generate a huge number of turnovers on Defense even with out standout players like Husayn Carnegie, and Hunter Corbet. Not to mention missing 2 of our prime handlers of Tyler Bacon and Dan Oettinger. The Aviators are here to win and we can compete with the best.
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Summary From Evan Lepler
Meanwhile, out west, the San Jose Spiders experienced a successful southern conquest, navigating a pair of narrow victories over San Diego 23-21 and Los Angeles 20-19. On Sunday, the Spiders jumped ahead 7-0 on LA, only to see the Aviators rally back to tie it up in the final minute of regulation. When they could have crumbled, the champs rediscovered their poise and calmly scored the game-winner with just over two seconds left.
“The LA game had a weird feeling to it,” explained Spiders Co-Captain Kevin Smith. “It felt like the score on the scoreboard was never indicative of how the teams were playing. Even though we started by going up 7-0, it didn’t seem like we were outplaying them by that much. It was a little windy. They made some mistakes. But seven goals in a row? Just didn’t feel like it.
“Likewise, in the second and third quarters, while they were chipping away, it still felt like we were in control and dictating the pace and play, but somehow the score wasn’t reflecting that. They did very well to score the last point and/or defend our attempts at the end of each of the first three quarters, and that ended up being a huge factor for them in keeping the game close.
“We started the fourth well, expanding the lead back to five, and then they rattled off five straight. I don’t think any team has ever done that to us ever. Nothing systematic to it, just good pressure and a variety of mistakes from us.”
Even after LA’s remarkable run evened the score at 19, Smith felt that the situation was very much in San Jose’s favor.
“Under a minute left, receiving the pull, a timeout in our pocket, the game was ours for the taking,” he said. “Not wanting to score too quickly, we threw six or seven passes to run off some clock and steadily gain some yardage. I got it to Christian [Johnson] in the middle with about 10 seconds left, who threw a pinpoint break huck to Simon [Higgins] to go up by one.”
With three seconds left, the Spiders called timeout to review their defensive game plan for the final play. Los Angeles got the disc to Dan Bellinger, who released a giant backhand before the buzzer.
“Beau [Kittredge] read it beautifully and swatted it to the ground just outside the end zone,” Smith said. “Exhale.”
According to Aviators Coach Franklin Rho, the game was analogous to a Patriots Super Bowl win: just when it looks like the underdog may have a chance, here comes Tom Brady – or in this case Kittredge – to sap all hope of an upset.
“That’s what champs do,” Rho said. “And yup – the Spiders are still the champs until someone with a big enough boot squashes them.”
In the moment, that kind of loss can be crushing. When you take a step back, however, the larger lessons from the game can be an important springboard going forward, especially for a team like Los Angeles.
“The MVP of our game was our entire D-line,” said Aviators Co-Captain Mark Elbogen. “They dug us out of a big hole and never gave up. They also helped to keep the heads of our O-line guys who struggled in the beginning. Not that I had any doubt, but I learned that our team has each other’s backs. It was really great to see that on Sunday. I’m glad to have this game in my back pocket to reference in future speeches to the team if we are down. If we can come back from [seven] down to the defending champs and tie it up, we can hang with any team.”
Coach Rho added, “I guess the game was additional validation that we can beat every team in the division, but I don’t think many of us are looking for/need validation. We expect to win, and we feel that this was a missed opportunity to get above .500. We’re certainly looking forward to the rematch.”
The Aviators meet the Spiders again in the Bay Area on Saturday, May 30, a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3.