The Vancouver Nighthawks are heading for San Francisco to take on the Dogfish in a Major League Ultimate contest this Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. PT.
Given that they started off the season with 20 MLU rookies, the Nighthawks knew they would be counting heavily on the returning vets, but unfortunately those vets have been dropping like flies.
Matt Berezan has yet to play a game this year, and Jordan Tessarolo went down for the rest of the season before last week’s game. Kirk Savage tried to come back from a hamstring pull last game but aggravated it in the first half and is now also out for the season, and Brendan Wong, who has been slowed by injuries all season, missed the fourth quarter and will be out for at least this weekend’s game. Add in Aaron Loach, who was limited to only six plays by a sore back, and you end up with what could be a bit of a nightmare for Coach Andrew Lugsdin.
But looking on the bright side, the missing veterans allow Lugsdin to find out what the young guys are capable of, and it turns out some are capable of plenty, including Sam Creed, who stepped up big for the O-line last game. He played more points in last weekend’s game than any other player on the field besides (of course) Morgan Hibbert, who at this point in the season has played 25 more points than anyone in the entire league.
“Sam’s done a great job,” said Lugsdin. “He’s a very good player. He’s stepped in and fit with what we’re trying to do offensively right away. He keeps moving and gets open well. He can break the force and hits open receivers quickly. He’s got a good mid-range throwing game too. I think we’ll see more of as the rest of the guys get used to his skill set.”
“I think I’ve done well taking advantage of defensive miscues by my defender to beat them up-line or break them on the mark,” said Creed. “Andrew stresses that we should win games with our legs and not our throws, so that’s something I’ve tried to focus on, using give-and-gos and clearing space for my teammates.”
Coach Lugsdin was pleased with how well his young charges played in the high-scoring one-goal loss to Seattle last weekend, but as is his wont, is keeping his focus on the next point, the next quarter, the next game.
“Certainly last week’s game was a much better effort than the week before and I was proud of how hard the guys fought. Yes, we made some miscues but the effort was there and that gave us a chance to win. I’m not thinking about winning the rest of our games, just on winning our next game. If we win this weekend, then we can focus on the one after that.”
Captain Morgan Hibbert, after Lugsdin probably the most important motivator on the team, is keeping the flames of hope still burning, even though the Nighthawks probably have to run the table to secure a playoff spot.
“I always feel like we can win every game that we step onto the field for. Our younger players are continuing to improve, and are taking on bigger responsibilities with the team every week. It is so rewarding to see them develop like this. The team still believes in the process and thus still believes in itself. This is a really special group of players we have.”
Speaking of Hibbert, it’s been a little surprising for Nighthawks fans to see the reigning Western Conference Defensive Player of the Year taking most of his points on the O-line the last few games, but when you hear the explanation, it makes a lot of sense. (And it’s not like Hibbert isn’t still making Defensive Plays of the Week…)
“We would love to keep Morgan on the D line where he makes such great contributions,” said Lugsdin, “but unfortunately, we need him on the O-line right now. It doesn’t matter how good your D-line is if your O-line is getting broken too often. We’ve had a bunch of injuries to our O-line, so we’ve been searching for whatever combinations can make us score at an acceptable rate. Morgan does a good job of getting open and moving the disc quickly, and last game he was part of the improvement in our O-line, which did manage to score 27 points.”
And Hibbert is enjoying his time on the other side of the disc.
“At this point in the season our O-line needs someone with a bit more experience to help guide all this young talent we have. I am having a blast out there and I am thrilled to be able to help the team out whichever way I can.”
Creed thinks the team is finally coming together, and expects to win in San Francisco on Sunday.
“It’s a little late to be sure, but I am confident we have the ability to win the rest of our games this season. Even though we lost the Seattle game, it was a great game, exciting to be a part of with huge plays on both sides of the field. If we can take that energy to San Francisco this weekend we will see good results.”
You can catch a live stream of the game on MLU Live. For the full fan experience, come down and join the Viewing Party at Mahony & Sons, who will be showing it live at their Burrard Landing location downtown Vancouver.
The Nighthawks next home game is against those same Dogfish on Saturday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. at Thunderbird Stadium.
You can buy tickets to the game here.