FlameThrowers Defeat Aviators 33-22, Earn First Trip to AUDL Championship
Last Saturday night, the Los Angeles Aviators beat the San Jose Spiders in their best performance of the entire season and punched themselves a ticket to the Western Conference Final in the process. Their luck didn’t last them through the following day, however, and despite putting on an athletic effort they lost at the hands of the San Francisco FlameThrowers on Sunday afternoon.
The FlameThrowers opened the game with a break, but LA fought back to tie it back up at threes. The away team soon briefly took a 5-4 lead, but both sides played evenly with each other for the full twelve minutes and neither could gain a significant advantage. At the end of the quarter, the score was tied at sevens.
For those wondering why the FlameThrowers struggled in the first quarter, there are no clear answers. But this humble author has some theories, most believable of which is that there was a noticeable lack of Red Bull on the home team’s sideline until the beginning of the second quarter. Once those cans had been cracked open and the buzzer sounded, the FlameThrowers were off to the races.
Both teams held to open the second quarter but then Head Coach Ryo Kawaoka put his cleats on and Byron Liu got a spectacular set of layout bookends so the FlameThrowers could regain their lead. The team followed that score immediately with two additional back-to-back breaks. After three goals in a row, they never looked back. The first quarter seemed like a fluke in the rearview mirror.
The first half ended with San Francisco up 15-10 against Los Angeles. Cassidy Rasmussen and Beau Kittredge had their classic connection working, the defensive line was generating break opportunities and working the disc patiently for critical scores, and the offense threw a near-perfect game. Ashlin Joye in particular had 41 catches throughout all four quarters without a single drop and proved that he could mesh well with the FlameThrowers’ system.
When asked about the team’s success, Coach Kawaoka explained that “all year we have been working to create moments that inspire each other as a team. This game was no different. Each one of us brings unique skills to the game that help us up our own game. In this game this game I think we saw the impact that Cody Kirkland’s pulls had. We were able to pin the Aviators back and implement a few of our junk defenses effectively.”
The third and fourth quarters displayed more FlameThrowers dominance and at the very last buzzer they were up by eleven points against the Aviators. Players like Sawyer Thompson kept the energy high, and the defensive line put on a show of their own to match the offense. Captains Greg Cohen and Lucas Dallman were seemingly everywhere, and despite one of the most bizarrely successful Hail Mary attempts in ultimate history from Los Angeles the visiting team just simply couldn’t get themselves back in the game. The final score was 33-22.
By The Numbers: Joel Schlachet had a monster game with 8 goals and 4 assists. Greg Cohen had 4 goals and 4 assists of his own, while Beau Kittredge made a triumphant return to the field after a month away and scored 3 goals, threw 4 assists, and even notched a block for good measure. Elijah Kerns earned 5 assists, 1 goal, and 1 block, and Antoine Davis and Cassidy Rasmussen both ended the day with +5 ratings.
What’s Next: On Saturday, the FlameThrowers will start their AUDL Championship Weekend when they face the Madison Radicals in Montreal at 4:00 EST. On Sunday, the winner of this game goes on to face the winner of the other semifinal game (between the Toronto Rush and the Dallas Roughnecks) in the Championship Final. There is no clear favorite to win the 2017 AUDL title, since the Rush have made the final four all five times, the Roughnecks won the Championship last year during their only other season in existence as a franchise, and the Radicals have also finished in the top four for five straight years. Both the Rush and the Roughnecks have previously ended a year with undefeated seasons. It’s sure to be a star-studded showdown!
Coach Kawaoka says that he enjoys the Radicals’ style of play and is looking forward to the game against them. “On offense, they take the easy shots, take their time, and still manage their energy levels well. Defensively it’s the same thing – slow down the game, create doubt and uncertainty, and capitalize. Both sides of the disc aim to slow down the game and you see that in their score lines.”
Despite the fact that this is the FlameThrowers’ first official appearance as a franchise at an AUDL Championship Weekend, there is a lot of depth on their roster that cannot be ignored. Nine of the athletes on this team have won AUDL Championships with the San Jose Spiders in previous seasons, and the dynamic Beau-Cassidy duo hasn’t lost possession of the coveted trophy in three straight years. The Radicals have a dangerous-looking zone defense, but the San Jose Spiders ended their seasons in both 2014 and 2015. Hopefully the group of former Spiders now sporting black and orange has the confidence to do it again.
The team is thrilled to have a shot at their first ever AUDL Championship. Coach Kawaoka admits that the awesomeness of the experience may be “a bit old hat for Beau and Cassidy, but it’s pretty exciting for the folks who’ve represented the FlameThrowers for the past few years. We hope to make our mark in Montreal!”
If you’re not flying out to Montreal to support us (boooooo!), you can stream all of the AUDL Championship Weekend games online at AUDL.TV. We will also be live updating our Twitter account and we will post occasional score updates on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Flame on!
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