The Western Conference Finals: Seattle Rainmakers vs. San Francisco Dogfish. This is the weekend. This is the sport.
Two broken feet, one broken hand, one broken wrist, and the most recent broken arm mean that the Rainmakers take to the road this weekend with nearly 40% of the original team out of the running due to injuries and circumstances (D-line cutter Skip Sewell has dropped from active play to perform general management duties, and two players are getting married — congrats Adam! Congrats Vehro!). But the team is entering what could be their final weekend as a team with high spirits.
“It wasn’t so long ago that our general managers had the unenviable task of choosing our roster from the huge group of talented players that came to tryout for our team,” said O-line cutter Moses Rifkin. “Everyone on this team is a strong player and, while you can’t lose players like we’ve lost and not suffer, I think everyone in cleats came prepared to play as hard as they could. We are a deep team, and unfortunately, we’re going to need that depth.”
Seattle was able to take advantage of that depth last weekend with a win over San Francisco in a preview of what’s to come tomorrow.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt to have won on Sunday,” said Assistant Coach Andy Lovseth. “It plants that seed of doubt in San Francisco’s mind. They owned us all season, until they didn’t. Now there’s doubt. So is there a mental edge? No. Neither team has an edge. But one team is coming off a win, and another team just lost.”
Lovseth’s players are on the same page.
Sam Harkness said, “I don’t think we gained any new mental edge over the Dogfish from our win. I believe we maintained our current mental edge that we hold over every team, which is that we think we are funnier than we really are. It drives teams crazy to see us have fun, and we love it.”
“I don’t think we have a mental edge over the Dogfish, to be frank,” said Rifkin. “It certainly felt good to get a win against them, but I think the way that we did it was more important: it was great for us, in the face of a lot of external challenges, to not fade in the last half as we had been but to get stronger as the game went on. That felt great, and I think that’s something we’re going to carry into the coming playoff game.”
“Bringing it in the 4th was something that didn’t just ‘happen’ for us,” Harkness continued. “This was practiced literally every game and practice. We were well aware of our ability to tank in the second half and slide by, but we would set up scenarios like this at practice to help us mentally learn how to bring it in the 4th. To be honest, I think a lot of us kind of enjoyed being down and having to fight and claw our way back.”
So what’s the game plan going into this weekend? Without giving too much away, Lovseth is confident. “We’ve now seen our fifth gear, and it’s pretty amazing. Let’s see if anyone can match it.”
Rifkin focused on the team’s capacity to adjust: “One of the hallmarks of our team has been to evolve as the games and season has gone on. We certainly don’t look like we did at the start of the season, which has both been a strength and a necessity.”
San Francisco has also changed as the season has progressed. They have benefited from the success of a few surprise stars — Andrew Hagen came up from the Dogfish practice squad and became a standout player, and Ryo Kawaoka & Evan Boucher have both stepped up to make an impact — but San Francisco’s big name stars have always stood out as the team’s go-to players. Opponents who have been successful by thwarting, in whatever small and seemingly insignificant way, the likes of Beau Kittredge and Mac Taylor threw the Dogfish into disarray, albeit temporarily. But it’s those moments of San Francisco confusion and frustration that have made the difference.
“You don’t contain Beau or Ashlin or Mac or Russell,” said Lovseth. “You can’t. You can only: make strong choices of what you’re attempting to take away, execute at the highest level, and take advantage when they misfire or when opportunities arise.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to force their offense to think about us and the defense we’re playing instead of what they’re trying to do,” said Rifkin. “We’re going to throw the kitchen sink at them to limit the space that they have available, and then keep evolving as the game goes on.”
The variable wind conditions at Kezar Stadium will definitely be a factor. In the first two games of the Seattle-San Francisco series, the strong gusts wreaked havoc with Seattle’s fledgling deep game, and the boisterous San Francisco crowds have a history of being very distracting. Seattle seems to have the deck stacked against them, but their spirits are high.
Harkness stated that the team’s goal is, “outsmart the smarties while still being funnier than them. NERDS!!!!”
Will the Rainmakers triumph against the odds, or will San Francisco’s home field advantage allow them to advance to the league championships? Will the Lucky Lumber make the trip for its ritualistic appearance after halftime, or will TSA confiscate the Rainmakers’ good luck charm? Get your tickets for tomorrow’s game or check back on the MLU Live channel at 1 pm Pacific on Saturday to find out.