Photo by Scott Houghtaling – UltiPhotos.com
The second annual Border Bid featured a high-scoring matchup between the Seattle Rainmakers and Vancouver Nighthawks that ended with the Nighthawks taking home the Border Bid trophy with a 22-20 win.
Despite the forecast calling for rain, the weather stayed clear for the entire game. With little wind, conditions were set for both offenses to showcase what they could do. This was a game of ups and downs for the Rainmakers as they battled back and forth with the Nighthawks. While the only time the Rainmakers led was in the first quarter while trading points with the Nighthawks, they kept the game close.
After a low-scoring Week 1 game against the Portland Stags, the Rainmakers took this week to focus on improving their offense. Their hard work was in clear effect as they were able to post 11 goals in the first half compared to the 12 they scored all game last week.
“On offense we played cleaner O,” said cutter Mark Burton. “We found the open spaces, cutters did a good job with time and space, finding the right cuts and finding the right spacing, much better than last week and that was good. Handlers really moved the discs with their legs and not just our throws. Tuesdays practice really helped. We really focus on O-line and throwing into space and we were really throwing into space rather than putting it into tight windows.”
While the Rainmakers offense was getting their shots into the end zone, the defense was also playing with a mission; however, no matter the number of blocks, the defense had trouble converting them into points on the board.
“The O-line really stepped up,” said Clay Dewey-Valentine. “The D-line got blocks, but failed to convert.”
This game was a chance for the Rainmakers to work on their strategy for the season. Both the Nighthawks and the Rainmakers came into this season with a lot of rookie players and have yet to define their style of play. The Rainmakers took advantage of this by experimenting with a number of junk defenses as well as using the traditional man.
“Having four coaches is awesome,” said Danny Trytiak. “So much to bounce off of. I thought in game changes were awesome. KK [Kate Kingery], Charlie [Mercer] and Fiona [McKibben] are killing it.”
In the second quarter, the coaching staff used timeouts between points to start the pull at half field. Teams across the league are now trying out this new rule with varying effect. The Rainmakers were able to pull out a break from their first timeout using this rule by getting a stall on Kirk Savage in the back of the end zone. While the strategy worked, the Rainmakers still found themselves behind by three at the end of the first half.
Seattle entered the second half with intensity, and after a messy first point the Rainmakers D-line came in help continue the momentum swing. With a stall on Jordan Tessarolo, the defense was quickly able to bring the game within one point. The Rainmakers kept it close in the third quarter, scoring three points to the Nighthawks four, but without converting any more breaks of their own the Rainmakers found themselves down by four.
It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that the Rainmakers saw themselves getting back into the game. After trading points throughout the quarter they switched up their defense putting Evan Klein on Savage to try and limit the verteran handler’s big hucks. Klein’s extra length proved enough to get a catch block on Savage that led to a hammer score from Henry Phan.
“I’m bigger, and that helped stopped the big hucks,” said Klein. “I got a good jump on the dump and then passed it off to my boy Phan, who put the beautiful hammer up to me.”
Down by three, with four minutes left, the Rainmakers did not have a lot of time to get back in the game. The Rainmakers caught a lucky break on an error from the Nighthawks when a throw hit a ref. In the MLU, as with other major sports like soccer, the refs are considered part of the field, and while it was unfortunate, the result still resulted in a turnover and the Rainmakers were able to put it in for the score.
With three minutes left and only down by two, the Rainmakers were in striking distance of a comeback. Phan pumped up the large crowd and encouraged them to cheer on the defensive unit. The Nighthawks only needed to burn the clock to close out the win, but they seemed intent on running up the score and leaving nothing to chance. A layout bid saw Morgan Hibbert taken out of the game with an injury, but the Nighthawks were able to keep the disc on a foul. With multiple turnovers on both sides, the crisp offense of the first quarter was nowhere to be seen with both teams tired. The final three minutes, while exciting, saw no scores and time expired with the Nighthawks up by two.
“We had opportunities, our defense played a hell of a game,” said Burton. “They got a lot of D’s, we just couldn’t quite put it in. They worked their butts off. D did a great job to put us in a position to win this game.”
While the game didn’t quite go the way the Rainmakers were hoping, the season is far from over. Trytiak is confident that at this point it is just a matter of cleaning up their game before fans start to see Seattle wins. With just a few changes on offense and defense, the Rainmakers should see themselves back in the race for a conference title.
“If D starts converting and O plays like that, we’ll win games,” said Trytiak.
The Rainmakers take the field again next weekend on Sunday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. against the Dogfish at Rainier Beach Stadium. Get your tickets early and come cheer on the Rainmakers as they look to get their first win of the season.