Photo by Scobel Wiggins – UltiPhotos.com
Article written by Bryan Atkinson:
The Portland Stags commenced the third season of Major League Ultimate by dominating their Pacific Northwest rival the Seattle Rainmakers 21 to 12.
After surprising everyone last season by improving their record from 1-9 to 8-2, the Stags continued their winning ways led by Head Coach Danny Quarrell and his staff’s “smart frisbee” style of play.
Before the first pull, Timmy Perston and the Stags honored their teammate Chris Beach-Rehner – who passed away in February – with a heartfelt speech about his enthusiasm and dedication to improving lives. Perston gifted Beach-Rehner’s mother with a personal Stags jersey, and the Stags will honor Beach-Rehner by wearing a black armband inscribed with his initials throughout the 2015 season.
After a long, driving pull by the Stags, the Rainmakers began the game with a frantic turnover which the Stags capitalized on. The Stags patiently passed the disc back and forth, wearing down the Rainmakers’ defense and willpower and concluding their first possession of 2015 with an end zone grab by Peter Woodside.
Seconds later, the Rainmakers answered back by taking advantage of a Stags’ defensive gamble and air-delivering the disc to tie the game 1-1. Although they initially appeared ready to match the Stags blow for blow, it was the closest the Rainmakers would come to besting the Stags at any point in the game.
Two of the game’s most exhilarating highlights came in the first quarter on back-to-back scores. Cody Bjorklund, even with a cast on one arm, caught a long pass while being tackled, jumped back on his feet and immediately backhanded the disc downfield to set up a score.
“I don’t think my cast really affected me today,” said Bjorklund.
After the subsequent pull, Raphy Hayes snagged a 50-50 pass from out of the Rainmakers’ hands, jumpstarted the Stags’ offense and ran downfield to benefit from his defensive efforts by catching the disc in the end zone to make the score 5-2.
The Stags continued to build their lead, not allowing the Rainmakers to score twice in a row at any point in the first half. The Rainmakers’ hope to head to the locker room with momentum was shattered when Topher Davis showed off his defensive prowess and snagged a short, quick pass and set up the Stags offense to double-up on the Rainmakers 12-6 at halftime.
The Rainmakers matched the Stags’ first two goals of the second half to stay within six points. The Stags refused to relent, however, and continued building their lead. After playing fairly conservatively through three quarters, the Stags had a heat check moment when Peter Woodside came down with an improbable 50-50 disc in the end zone.
Portland played a stifling style of defense, not allowing the Rainmakers any comfort room. Forced to make desperate throws due to the score and the Stags’ tough defense, the Rainmakers found themselves turning over the disc on out of reach passes. They were able to match the Stags score for score in the fourth quarter when Portland may have lost some focus.
While the Rainmakers may have had some first game jitters and frustrations, the Stags looked to be in mid-season form from the get-go, aided by their experience playing together.
“Last year we had a much bigger turnover between the first and second year,” said Davis. “And this year we’re pretty consistent with everyone coming back.”
Daniel Shaw credits the Stags’ win to “working within our system, being patient and taking shots that were there and not risking too often.” On several possessions, the Stags lulled the Seattle defense to sleep with methodic lateral passes before throwing long hammer passes to the end zone when a teammate was able to elude his defender.
Stags fans went home satisfied and smiling, and they contributed to the team’s excellent play.
“The fans were excited and really into the game,” according to Shaw. “It’s fun to play in front of people who are chanting and stampeding.”
“If we play like this every game, we’ll certainly do well,” said Davis. “And I think we can play better.”
The Stags will seek their first road win of the season against the Dogfish in San Francisco next weekend.