Photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com
The Vancouver Nighthawks preseason intra-squad scrimmage resulted in a close 18–17 win for the Offensive Line over the Defensive Line. Given that almost every Nighthawks game last season was decided by just a few goals, it was no surprise that this one was close too.
The players were divided into two teams, O-Line in red and D-Line in black, with a few additional exchanges to balance out handler-cutter ratios. In front of a small audience consisting of girlfriends and wives, teammates, and kids, both lines played their hearts out and fought to the very end.
Gagan Chatha led the D-Line on the stats sheet with no fewer than 10 points. Though usually an O-line cutter, for this game Chatha was switched to the D-Line and had an exceptional game as the Black team’s biggest scoring threat.
Aaron Loach led the O-Line with five points including three assists. Though he did not manage to match Chatha’s scoring output, Loach made great contributions both offensively and defensively that helped the Red team secure victory.
Loach threw the first punch with a flick huck that found Brendan Wong in the enemy end zone, but even with that head start, the team in Red missed a few catches and eventually fell behind. Kirk Savage tried to turn the tide around by boxing out Peter Yu. However, Savage failed to knock the disk down and instead tipped it. As the disk floated forwards, Yu seized his opportunity against an opponent twice his age and scored with a layout. Things were looking dire for Red as the first quarter ended 4-2 for Black.
The second quarter, a hammer party, ended in a 7-7 tie. The Reds scored three times in 10 minutes with hammers. Joel Bellevance started the trend with a hammer to Kevin Greer, followed by one from Loach to Wong, and concluding with another from Marc Seraglia to Joel Bellevance. But then Takuya Saito caught a long shot and made a short pass to Chatha to break the Red team’s scoring streak, and the teams traded scores to reach the 7-7 tie at halftime.
The game stayed relatively even through the third quarter, as Red and Black took turns leading the scoreboard. By this point, the new players had started to adjust and were making useful contributions on the field, including Kevin Greer and Matthew Doyle, who scored and assisted multiple points for the Red team.
On the Black team, Saito and John Norris established a strong connection. Saito managed to throw a floater downfield to give Norris an easy layout, which allowed Norris to get enough airtime to carry him into the end zone, leaving no chance for his opponents to intervene. But despite their efforts, the third quarter ended 14-13 for Red.
In the final stretch, tension increased as both sides tried and failed to pull away. Out of nowhere, Greer threw a long huck that was caught by Brendan Wong with an incredible layout that no one expected, earning him a cheer from his Red teammates on the sideline.
This play pumped up the Red team and charged the atmosphere on the field. Chatha, Yu and Davis tried their best to keep Black in the game by scoring multiple points, but time ran out and the Red team prevailed with a close 18-17 win. The O-Line ruled, albeit just barely and only for one game.
Head Coach and GM Andrew Lugsdin had mixed feelings about the game, but took some encouragement from what he saw.
“There were a few guys that played very well,” said Lugsdin. “Mugz (Kevin Greer) was strong both defensively and offensively. Gagey had a great game offensively. Takuya played well on both sides of the disc. Our overall level of play was sloppy in the first quarter; our spacing was off and there were some overthrows. But our play really picked up from the second quarter on, and both teams also showed a really good compete level from the second quarter on.”
“I do think that we’ll be a better team than last year. This year our players are more athletic and are playing within our systems better. We do still need players to step up and play at a very high level. We’ll find out who does once the games start for real.”
After their first game of the season against the Portland Stags this Saturday, April 12, the Nighthawks home season opens in Vancouver against the San Francisco Dogfish at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium on Easter Sunday, April 20.