The Portland Stags and Vancouver Nighthawks put on quite a show last Saturday, with Vancouver prevailing 24-21 in what was by far the highest scoring MLU game so far in this inaugural season. I spoke to some Vancouver coaches and players to find out why the score was so high, and how Vancouver managed to win.
I started off by asking Coach/GM Andrew Lugsdin why there was so much scoring.
“I think it was a combination of both good offense and poor defense. Our O line was playing the best that they have all year in the first half and were solid in the second half. Overall, they had a very good game.”
“On D, we had a number of turns in the first quarter, but after that we couldn’t really stop them. I actually thought we played much better D in the second half in terms of our intensity but by then they had their deep game humming and we were beaten on a ridiculous number of hucks. They didn’t miss any of their shots and while we challenged a few of them we didn’t really win any one on one battles.”
Assistant Coach Greg Shiring, who called the subs on the O line, brought up another important factor, the perfect throwing conditions on a night which set many records for warmth around the region.
“The wind calmed down by game time, so we had perfect weather for the offenses to score. Given the conditions, I knew we would score well, but I didn’t expect Portland to be so consistent with their deep game. Hats off to them for striking so effectively.”
I asked Lugsdin why Portland was so successful with their huck game up till the 4th quarter. From the overhead view in the stands you could see the deep cuts develop, with neither the marking of the disc nor the positioning of the defender marking the striker being effective.
“We tried a number of things to attempt to slow down their long game. Going into the game we knew that we wanted to force them to make as many passes as possible instead of the one big throw.”
“In the first half it was a lack of effort and intensity. I’m not sure why we had so many of our players giving so much space to their cutters both out and under. In the second half we mixed up some personnel and raised the bar in terms of expectations, and the team responded with a much higher level of intensity. But even though we increased the pressure and were generally much closer, we had already let them get their confidence going and weren’t able to get the stops until they tired a bit.”
“It is something we will look at this week and address. Certainly, when your defense gives up as many easy scores as we did it makes it tough to win. Fortunately, this week our O line played at a level where they were able to carry us to a win. “
Co-captain Oscar Pottinger has a few ideas on the adjustments that need to be made in this type of game.
“Neither the down-field defender and marker adjusted well to the huck game. We needed to use a zone or straight up mark for a pass or two to prevent the huck and play defense downfield accordingly. We finally amped up the pressure in the 4th quarter and made them work for a couple of points which tired out their offense. After we successfully denied some long plays, they were forced to work it up and eventually wore down.”
I asked Lugsdin which Nighthawks impressed him during the game.
“Mauro Ortiz had a great game throwing. When he’s on like that, he really breaks down the defense and gives us some easy scores. Oscar Pottinger also had a big game for us, setting the tone early by getting open often and making good decisions with the disc. Kevin Underhill and Andre Gailits were also crucial to our O line all night, moving the disc, getting open, not making any mistakes. “
Underhill and Gailits will be happy to hear that, given they were stepping into roles normally occupied by players who were missing for this game.
“On D, it was not a great night for some of the guy,s but I thought Alex Davis played all game with the kind of intensity and will to win that we need. His compete level was high throughout the game and he was rewarded with several D blocks. If we had all seven players on the D line playing with his effort, we would have been much more effective early in the game. “
Pottinger also highlighted some of the players taking on increased roles.
“Defensively, I thought Prez (Aaron Liu) played his usual strong game and denied some reset passes. Ryan Lee jumped in and did a good job using his body and size since we were missing our two tallest guys on defense.”
“On our O line, I thought Jordan “Rolo” Tessarolo stepped up and played a strong game, finishing a lot of plays near the endzone. Kevin Underhill also played a huge role for us as he moved to a handler reset position when I was pushed into the lanes to fill some gaps. “
Shiring chimed in..
“From my viewpoint handling the O line, the standouts last night were Rolo, Mauro, and Andre “Dre” Gailits.
“Rolo was filling in for missing guys, and he warmed up to the game after starting a little slowly. By the second half, he was cutting more aggressively and pulling down everything that was thrown to him. He also got a a great layout D to get the disc back for the O later in the game.”
Rolo ended up with seven goals for the game.
‘Mauro played every O point and really elevated the play out there. It’s great to have him hitting on all cylinders. He has the ability to see the field very well and then is able to deliver the disc to players in areas that most guys can’t even see, much less throw to.”
“Dre had another solid game. He’s been cutting hard, catching everything, being solid with his throws, just being an all around impact player. “
Gailits recorded five goals and three assists.
For fans of offense, this game was pure heaven, and the brightest star in that firmament was Nighthawks handler Mauro Ortiz, who managed no fewer than nine assists and added some nice layouts on both O & D while taking the Nighthawks Player of the Game honours. He was really zipping his hammers and outside-in sidearm throws through and over the defense, and for the first time I saw the Nighthawks offense starting to take advantage of the wider field used in MLU.
Ortiz always seems to exude joy while he plays, and he was clearly still revelling in his role in Saturday night’s game when I talked to him the next day.
“I had such a blast last night.”
“I am starting to feel more comfortable out there with the new rules, new Frisbee, and new field dimensions, and how to work with them. And the team is starting to come together; with players making the connections with teammates they need to have for the team to be successful. Our O line is starting to play the way we know we can play, not having to force things. We have a very talented group of guys on our offense and it was just a matter of time till we started to click.”
There was something else that made the night extra special for Mauro.
“It is always fun to play in front of a home crowd. Feeling that pressure to not let them down makes me personally play better. And in this game there was also the pressure I put on myself to play really well in front of the five girls in my life who were in the stands watching me play. Yes, not just my three daughters and my wife, but also my mom who is visiting from Venezuela was there. She’s my biggest fan!”
“I am having a blast playing. What an experience the MLU has been so far!”
The Nighthawks’ next two games are on the road, so the next time you’ll get a chance to share that experience at Thunderbird Stadium with be May 25th at 7 p.m. when they host the Seattle Rainmakers. Get you tickets here.