Photo by Tino Tran – phototino.com
The Seattle Rainmakers defeated the Vancouver Nighthawks 14-12 in the season opener on Saturday in front of approximately one thousand excited spectators, anxious to see the first professional Ultimate game of the MLU season in the Pacific Northwest.
The game at Chief Sealth Stadium in West Seattle began with light winds from the south and a hold by the Rainmakers to take the lead. The two teams traded points, followed by a Seattle break behind a greatest from Sam Harkness to make the game 3-1. Harkness jumped out of the endzone and threw the disc back to trailing teammates Donnie Clark and Matty Zemel.
“I don’t think I have gotten [a greatest] in a serious game like this before,” said the O-Line cutter/handler. “I knew Zemel was close by, but I didn’t know that there was going to be a pileup or anything. I didn’t even see the catch; I was on the ground!” But it wasn’t Zemel who made the catch. Clark instead hauled the disc in for one of the most exciting plays of the game in front of a roaring crowd.
The Rainmakers held on to their two point lead to take the first quarter 5-3. Seattle earned another break in the second quarter to take a three point lead over Vancouver. The countdown to the end of the half was punctuated by two more exciting plays, as both teams tried to capitalize down to the last second.
Vancouver pulled out a score with six seconds left off of two turnovers by the Rainmakers, yet the Nighthawks had left just enough time for Seattle to make a play. With only seconds until the end of the half, Rainmaker Phil Murray picked up the disc and sent a deep huck to the endzone. It looked as if the throw was headed for a cluster of Seattle and Vancouver players. That is, until Matt Rehder came flying across with a massive sky. Rehder pulled down the disc in an incredible display of sheer athleticism that secured a 9-6 lead for the Rainmakers at half and had the crowd on their feet.
The atmosphere throughout the game was amazing. There was a live band from Chief Sealth High School, kids doing trampoline tricks at halftime, and food provided by the acclaimed food truck, Mr. Gyros. Much of the Seattle Ultimate community was in attendance on Saturday, as players’ friends bought tickets to see them represent the Emerald City on the field. “Big crowds just make us want to show that we really enjoy the game,” said Seattle’s Harkness.
The home team got off to a hot start with a 5-0 run in the third quarter. With scores from Moses Rifkin, Matty Zemel, and BJ Sefton, the Rainmakers were in the driver’s seat with a 14-6 lead, but Vancouver wasn’t done yet. The Nighthawks fought back with amazing tenacity in the fourth quarter, matching and then exceeding Seattle’s run with six consecutive points. But time ran out on Vancouver as the clock expired with the score 14-12.
“Vancouver is an extremely good fourth quarter team,” said Harkness. “They’ve always been able to hold on to leads and to make up ground.” Nevertheless, Vancouver’s aborted comeback left Coach Ben Wiggins with a desire to improve. “We were trying to go straight up the field instead of using the width,” said Wiggins. “It looked like we got nervous and tried to ‘get pretty with the disc’ instead of gritting down and having the willpower and the trust to move through our teammates.”
As for next week, the Rainmakers will face the Portland Stags at Chief Sealth, a team Seattle defeated 19-7 in the preseason. Come see if the Rainmakers can repeat their performance against their Northwest rival on Saturday, April 27th.