Last weekend the Vancouver Nighthawks got a monkey off their back by beating the San Francisco Dogfish for the first time. This weekend they will try to shake the final monkey by beating the Seattle Rainmakers for the first time.
There should be a great atmosphere for the game, dubbed The Border Bid. It will be played in neutral territory in Mount Vernon, almost as close to Vancouver as Seattle, giving fans of both teams a chance to watch and cheer. Many of the spectators will be participating as players in the Spring Reign youth tournament in nearby Burlington this weekend, so expect a raucous crowd.
We’re not the only ones anticipating a fun game. League Commissioner Jeff Snader is making the trip to Mount Vernon all the way from Philadelphia to enjoy the atmosphere. The game is also streaming live on MLU Live beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The Nighthawks are primed for the showdown. Looking to redeem themselves from being upset by Portland in their first game, they started off perfectly against San Francisco last Sunday when during the first point Alex Davis made the Defensive Play of the Week to knock down a huck, whereupon his teammates quickly moved the disc up the field to score the first goal of the game. The tone was set: strong defensive pressure that limited the normally high-scoring Dogfish to only four points in the first half, while the smoothly running Nighthawks offense scored 13. By then the game was essentially over.
Seattle is going to have to figure out what to do about Brendan Wong, who scored seven goals and three assists against the Dogfish. Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin enjoyed watching his emerging star, who now leads the MLU with his 12 goals in two games.
“Last week in Portland he was probably our best lane cutter,” says Lugsdin. “Against San Francisco he had a great game, not just getting goals but consistently getting open for us all over the field.”
This was the first time in their existence that the Nighthawks had enjoyed a big lead. Wong actually found it a bit unnerving to be so far ahead.
“I find some anxiety in thinking that while there is still time on the game clock, it is still our game to lose,” said Wong. “I find I still have to work just as hard, if not harder, to maintain good focus in order to keep the control of the game that we worked so hard to get in the first place.”
That mindset definitely worked; the Dogfish found him uncoverable. Characteristically humble, Wong credits everyone but himself for his scoring binge.
“I think part of it was the yellow Gatorade I was drinking during the first half of the game…”
“I honestly don’t know what it was. My legs were feeling pretty good that day and our timing on the O-line seemed to be clicking well on Sunday. Our O-line seemed to have confidence in everyone when we stepped out on the field for each point and that makes me play better as well. My favourite place is the end zone and I was just lucky to be the one getting passed to when I got there!”
Lugsdin was equally pleased with the way his D-line pressured the San Francisco offence in a way they never managed against Portland.
“It’s something that we worked on this past week in practice and something that we spoke about right after the loss to Portland,” said Lugsdin. “But as much as we talk about it and emphasize it in our practices, what matters is whether players go out there and do it in games. Last week we got the pressure that we wanted, so the challenge is to bring it again this weekend. I will again be looking for our D-line leaders Davis and Morgan Hibbert to really set the tone for us on Saturday.”
This is what the Rainmakers have to deal with, a team with great confidence in its ability to score and to shut down the opposition’s offense with pressure. The Nighthawks are also a team with a deep bench; no fewer than 22 Nighthawks scored at least one point in the win over San Francisco.
“We’re a young team but they’ve been working hard and we’re starting to see some of the work from last year and early this year pay off,” said Lugsdin after the win over San Francisco. “We have a long way to go but winning like this reinforces for everyone what we’re doing. It gives them confidence to double down their efforts.”
But don’t count out Seattle’s grit and determination against their long time rivals. So far this season the Rainmakers have split a pair of game with the Dogfish, most recently beating them in overtime at home last weekend. The Nighthawks will have to contend with the prowess of offensive linchpin Adam Simon, who leads both teams with 81 completions while committing only two throwaways. Watch for him to work with the Rainmakers’ top scorers, Daniel Trytiak who has 13 points and Donnie Clark with 12. The Nighthawks will also have to be aware of Henry Phan, rapidly emerging as Seattle’s defensive leader.
Expect the fans and the commissioner to get a great show as these two well-matched opponents give their all in the effort to take the lead in the Western Conference. And if the Nighthawks win, keep your eyes peeled for a disgruntled ape.
In the game against San Francisco, Kevin Underhill, Kirk Savage and Keane Knapp all had 100% completion rates on their throws.
You don’t have to score points to be a key part of your team’s offence; in the first two games Savage topped the Nighthawks’ passing stats with 65 completions with no throwaways while racking up only three assists.
Morgan Hibbert leads the Nighthawks with 5 D’s in two games.
Paragons of efficiency, Kevin Greer has four assists on seven throws while Mark Leduc has five assists on only six throws
If you are planning to travel to the game, here’s what you need to know to buy tickets and get to the stadium.
The Nighthawks next home game will be against the Seattle Rainmakers at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium on Saturday, May 10 at 7 p.m.