Photo by Scobel Wiggins @ Ultiphotos.com
Seattle took it to the Portland Stags in a big way last night, solidifying their status as a team to be reckoned with and rocketing to the top seed in the western conference with an 18-12 win against their Pacific Northwest neighbors.
The game opened up with a downwind pull from Seattle and a turn by Portland caused in large part by Matty Zemel. This was quickly followed up by a score by Reid Koss. The Stags responded quickly with a big shot from Ben McGinn to Eli Friedman. The two teams traded points and Ds like this until the score was 3-3, with major contributions by Bryson Uhrig-Fox (Seattle #18) who was able to get a foot block and Ben Lohre (Portland #42) who knocked down a floating toss from Seattle’s Sam Harkness in the Stags’ endzone.
Seattle was able to take the lead extend it to two with an upwind break from Adam “Chicken” Simon to Skip Sewell, and then to three with a great D from Sean Sears, followed by a lefty scoober from Seth Wiggins to Donnie Clark to make the score 6-3 Rainmakers with 52 seconds left to play in the first quarter. But Portland captain Cody Bjorklund answered right back with a massive crossfield hammer to the endzone to make it 6-4 at the end of Q1.
Wind was definitely a factor in the first and second quarters, with several downwind pulls going out the back of the endzone and upwind breaks becoming more and more crucial. Portland took advantage of this with an upwind score from Eli Friedman to Ben Lohre to start the quarter and then a downwind break to tie the game midway through the quarter to make it even at six points apiece. The two teams then traded points and turnovers until the end of the half with Seattle taking a tenuous 9-7 lead.
For the second half, head coach Ben Wiggins made a point of emphasizing points over possession, with the memory of Vancouver’s six-point run from last week fresh in the team’s collective memory. His players did not disappoint. There were offensive contributions from BJ Sefton, Sam Harkness, Reid Koss, Mark Burton, and a host of others, and the Rainmakers were tenacious on the other side of the disc as well, with layout Ds from Adam Holt and Phil Murray to keep the Rainmakers on top. The score was 16-10 at the end of the third quarter.
There were no buzzer-beaters, though there were certainly no shortage of attempts, and tempers may have flared at times with a “flagrant foul” call against Frank Barich and a bit of a tiff between Sefton and a Portland defender he felt was invading his space, but eventually it become clear that this game was in the Seattle’s hands. There were certainly some neat moves by Portland, such as a huck from Ben Lohre to a receiver who toed the line to stay in and score with 1:44 to go in the game, but it was ultimately too little too late and the Rainmakers took the 18-12 W in their second home game.
On a more strategic note, both teams are still experimenting with the double-team. Some double-teams worked, like when Portland was able to trap Seth Wiggins on the sideline (at least until the wind let up enough for Wiggins’s trademark scoober to came out to play), while others, like a double-team by Seattle on their own endzone line which ended in an easy pass to Portland’s Adrian King, simply didn’t.
The numbers may not indicate the crowd’s excitement, but with close to 500 fans in the stands on the Rainmakers’ Fan Appreciation Night, it was anything but a dull evening. Next week sees the team on the road to San Francisco to take on the undefeated Dogfish in what is sure to be a showcase of the western conference’s incredible talent.