Photo by Scobel Wiggins – Ultiphotos.com
The Rainmakers (0-1) started off strong against the Portland Stags (1-0) but faltered at the Stag’s strong defense in the first quarter. Seattle pressed hard and scored well in the fourth, but couldn’t come back in time. The Stags won 22-16.
The Portland Stags received the opening pull, but Seattle Rainmakers got the break and scored the first point, with Eddie Feeley flipping the disc to 2015 Western Conference Rookie of the Year Evan Klein. The Stags scored the next two points to take the lead, 1-2. From there, the two teams traded points back and forth, bringing the scores to 3-3 and 4-4. The Rainmakers kept Timmy Perston at bay early, pacing the usually dominant Stags.
Halfway through the first quarter, the Rainmakers fell to the tough defense of the Stags. After Portland score again to take the lead, the Rainmakers worked it up to the endzone, with Khalif El-Salaam attempting to find paydirt, but Portland rookie Duncan McNalley thwarted him with an impressive layout block in the endzone. El-Salaam answered back by skying Peter Woodside to prevent the Stags from converting the break, but a Jeremy Norden block near the 50 yard line led to a Stags score. After the Stag’s third consecutive break, Aaron Adamson prevented a Rainmakers buzzer beater to close the first quarter at 4-7.
In the second quarter the Rainmakers struggles continued. The Stags scored again to bring it to 4-8. The Rainmakers answered back with El-Salaam getting a big sky over Riley Meinershagen to throw it to Klein for the score, cutting the lead to 3. The Rainmakers focused their defense on keeping Perston at bay, which they succeeded at, holding the normally high scorer to a single goal and one assist for the game. Meinershagen and Cody Bjorklund played well for the Stags. Cam Bailey guarded Bjorklund at the 2015 Western Confernce Championship, but an injured Bailey was sidelined and the Rainmakers sorely missed his defensive talents. At the end of the first half the score was 6-11, with Seattle only scoring two points in the second quarter. The Stags were defending under cuts and challenging the Rainmakers in the air, while Seattle’s own defense could not keep them from starting to run up the points.
The third quarter ended 10-18. No team in MLU history has come back that many points to win a game, but the Rainmakers found their stride again late in the third quarter and started putting some more points up on the board. “Part-way through the third and into the fourth, we seemed to find our deep game on offense,” said Klein. “We had been missing out on huck looks in the first half that we desperately needed to open up the field. Once we connected on a few later in the game, we could see the field open up more for our cutters. However, our D-line still failed to get enough of the breaks we needed to close the score back in.” Seattle scored six in the last quarter, including goals by Steve Gussin, El-Salaam and Robin Breen.
The Rainmakers have a lot of new players this season, and as they play more this season they will mesh better. They stumbled in the second and third quarters because they weren’t seeing the openings they needed to score. As their timing and defense improve, they will be a team to contend with on the West Coast.
Klein sees promise in the team’s rookies.
“Our young guys played well, which I think speaks wonders to the depth we hope to have by the end of the season. Certainly no one is happy with the result, but we will learn from our mistakes and make the necessary adjustments as we move forward to remain competitive.”
El-Salaam placed blame on himself for the disappointing result of the game.
“I turned the disc over a lot. I’m happy I had 7 assists, that’s great, but I also had 7 turnovers. Most of which lead to breaks.” El-Salaam says that the Rainmakers weren’t ready for Portland’s vertical stack. “It’s much different offense to guard than a horizontal. We will adjust our practices to adjust next time.”
The Rainmakers will again take on the Stags in their Home Opener on April 17 at 1 pm at Rainier Beach High School. At the Home Opener, the Rainmakers will be hosting a youth clinic before the game for kids 12-18 years.