Photo by Scobel Wiggins – UltiPhotos.com

 21 – 16 

Eleven seconds and three passes into the game, Leon Chou dove to deflect a pass from Teddy Browar-Jarus and intended for Jeff Graham. The glimmer of hope as Graham failed to catch the disc was the closest the Spinners got to a lead over the course of the contest. After the disc got away from Graham, it banked easily into the hands of the trailing Sam Kittross-Schnell. What began as a block was reclassified as a mere completion.

There was one more chance at a block before the Whitecaps scored the game’s first goal at 9:20, but Miles Montgomery-Butler laid claim to the disc before either Matt Esser or Dave Baer made a play.

On the next point, the oft-lauded Philadelphia offense advanced until, on the seventh throw of the point, Marshall Ward threw the disc into the end zone to Jake Rainwater sweeping across the field with Sam Richardson in pursuit. It was either meant as a throw to the back corner or a high throw to Rainwater. Intent, like the pass, was rendered irrelevant upon landing. Boston proceeded to work 80 yards up one side of the field in five throws without moving the disc more than five yards off of the sideline before Matthew McDonnell caught the goal about 15 yards from the sideline while toeing the backline.

One minute and 55 seconds into the game, Boston was ahead 2-0. One tipped disc caught, and one error for Philly’s offense on a day when two errors could well be the difference. “Inauspicious” is likely the word on the tip of your tongue while “ultimately futile” is the phrase to describe Philly’s first playoff campaign. Then again, in parallel to Tolstoy’s families: Every successful team is the same, but every failure is unique.

The failure of Philly looks a lot like the possession following a Boston huck out the back of the end zone for Tyler Chan, at 2-3 Boston up: Philly has 80 yards to go, gets just over the midfield on a completion to Patrick Lindsey who looks reset at about stall one after a perfunctory look upfield (Esser got open just after Lindsey looked away). The resets then cut a bit while Lindsey looks back upfield, then back to the reset in order to throw a -15-yard turnover while getting stalled. Not a good start for the Philly defensive offense.

This would be one of the two ineluctably clear trends in this game. The first is that Philly had trouble on offense whether after the turn or after the pull. The second is that the wind was the 15th player on the field. The obvious evidence of this begins with the 12 combined drops. Over the season, Philly averaged 3.9 drops and Boston averaged 2.3. This meant that each team dropped under 1.5 percent of passes over the season. In this game, Philly dropped seven discs (3.00% of passes) and Boston dropped five (2.33%).

If we look at the overall completion rate of the two teams, the game seems closer than it was as Boston completed 92.06 percent of passes on the game while Philly completed 91.09 percent. Setting aside that Philly threw 30 more passes, these numbers result in 1 more turnover per 100 throws. Numbers that close are a strong indicator of a tight result.  21-16 is not that, however. What if we look at it separated by offense and defense?

TeamO/DGBThrCmpIncCmp%DropDr%

O

161153146795.42521.25
O1442192011891.87162.89

 

TeamO/DGBThrCmpIncCmp%DropDr%

D

5761511083.60735,56
D2428244*85.71414.00

* – There was also one stall, bringing total turns to 5 for the Philly D.

The Boston offense, during a game in which the overall completion percentage was 91.54, completed passes at 95.43 percent. Both defenses were well below average, and the Philadelphia offense was just above. However, for Philadelphia, if their offense is barely above average, there is no victory to be had. Over the course of the season, the Philadelphia offense completed passes at 94.25 percent, the highest for any rotation in the league. In this game, they fell 2.465 percent to land at 91.781. The end result was 18 incompletions from Philly’s offense, or 6.4 more than their regular season average of 11.6.

If we compare the average performance of each team (split by O and D) from the regular season to this game, we can get a sense for the game overall:

TeamO/DGBThrCmpIncCmp%DrDr%

Both

-0.4-2.7-21.5-18.7-2.80.4642.71.324
D-2.8-0.8-13.1-15.32.2-5.8672.04.070

O

-2.4-1.9-8.4-3.4-5.02.86600.70.436

Both

-3.5-2.7-24.3-26.42.1-1.5723.11.540

D

-4-3.4-41.7-37.4-4.3-2.378-0.61.464

O

0.50.717.4116.4-2.4653.71.753

Everyone except Philly’s offense had fewer blocks, throws and completions than average. Boston’s offense was dominant enough that Boston’s overall completion percentage was better than average despite the defense being -5.867 percent. Philly’s offense had more of everything, while Philadelphia’s defensive offense was beset by the opposite problem. They threw 4.3 fewer incompletions than average, but they also attempted 41.7 fewer passes. Their issue was turnovers early in possessions or without gaining any real positional advantage.

A perfect example from early in the game: Philly gets a defensive possession after a block against Boston’s normally efficient end zone offense. Down 3-4, Baer picks up the disc at the pylon and goes every-other across the field before throwing an underneath incompletion to Nick Purifico via a crap backhand on the fifth throw. Boston scores eventually to go up 5-3.

And this was not the only example of the Philadelphia defensive offense continually aborting progress before achieving anything resembling pressure on Boston’s offensive defense. We can return to the earlier stall on Lindsey, which was due to a combination of poor timing, timid work as a thrower and decent defense from Boston.

However, at this point, the lasting image from this turnover hasn’t even happened yet. When Boston takes control of the disc, they work simply up the breakside of the field. Before the game, Coach Maroon told my broadcasting partner Geoff Poster that they would work to force Boston off of the sideline. In order to do that, the mark must prevent easy break passes up the sideline. Here the Philly defense wholly fails to do so.

More tellingly, this point shows how the awareness, skill and teamwork of Josh Markette and Graham keep the offense locked in. Just keep your eyes on Markette after the initial throw. He clears to the far side of the field while presenting a reasonable option to the thrower. Once Markette clears the lane, he turns and moves to the top of the stack. While so doing, Markette checks downfield to know what the Boston offensive spacing. As he drives back to the breakside, he knows there is room to receive the disc with upfield advantage. He curls his cut upfield while Graham (also fully able to see this space) throws an outside-in flick to the breakside of the flick force which enables Markette’s run up the sideline AND prevents the disc from fading back toward Mike Baer, the trailing defender. Markette takes the free yardage and then Graham cuts upline.

At this point, Graham’s defender (Chou) attacks Markette with the double, leaving Graham free but in a spot that could be difficult to hit for some throwers. Not Markette, who seems to have practiced some bizarre two-hand iteration of a lifting high-release flick (really more of an in-hand adjustment or readying, upon further review) which catches both marks off-guard and before dropping lightly into Graham’s hands.

It led to an uncontested break for Graham, which led to an uncontested assist from Browar-Jarus to an uncontested goal for Kittross-Schnell. 4-2 rather than 3-3. If that off-hand-assisted high-release flick is not the Throw of the Week… I’ll have to establish my own Throw of the Week award.

And then later on in the opening half, on the occasions when a tip did fall Philly’s way, it was then called back due to a pick call away from the play.

Not only was this apparent goal, it set off a chain of events which conspired to deepen the hole Philly had dug itself. With a mere 1:24 left in the first quarter, there would be five offensive possessions and nary a score:

– Philly turn on three throws (into end zone)
– Boston turn on one throw (12 yards out)
– Philly turn on two throws (into end zone)
– Boston turn on three throws (75 yards)
– Philly turn on one throw (clock runout)

The two teams combined to go 5-for-10 over that stretch. If either team had the wherewithal to collect themselves and thereby rally for a score in this stretch, the game could have been quite different.

Boston proceeded to score on offense to start the second quarter to go up 6-3. This is another important theme, as not only did the Whitecaps score the first point in every quarter, they scored the final point in each of the first three quarters.

This is the equivalent of three breaks. Clock and quarter management are essential to sustained success.

Obligatory long offensive point:

Boston pulling up 7-4 with 8:10 to go in the first half.
Philly scores at 5:11 on their fourth offensive possession.
Three minutes on offense for the Spinners.

Philly, after this long slog of an offensive hold, watches Boston throw another end zone turnover, this one out the side of the end zone to Chan. Baer walks the disc up purposefully and surveys the field. The thing is, Markette has, in the interim, likewise surveyed Baer and found him wanting.

The Boston offense generated just one actual block over the course of the game. This block illustrates the way in which all blocks are not created equal. Markette single-footedly gives his team a 0-yard field to work with, and does the honors of throwing a goal to Graham on an end zone isolation.

After all of that and more, the Spinners are only down 8-10 at half. Even better is that they are starting on offense with a chance to close the gap to one. Sadly, this moment of hope would soon (again) be dashed against the rocks by the Whitecaps after just 2:05 of the second half had elapsed. It started with a Ward drop just outside of the end zone which led to a 2-yard, 1-throw Boston score. 11-8 Whitecaps.

After a throwaway/Drop/D in the end zone on the second possesson from Rainwater to Matt Glazer, Boston goes 80 yards in 35 seconds to go up 12-8 after a mere two minutes and five seconds.

The Spinners kept working, and even scored a break on a well-propelled deep shot from Chou to Purifico. This break goal, which brought the score to 10-12, would prove the last for the visiting team. On the final break possession for the Spinners (down 12-14) Chou would squander the last-ditch opportunity with a turfed underneath pass.

Even though the teams traded goals for the balance of the third quarter, another game-changing play from Markette when ahead 16-14 would effectively grant Boston the right to first refusal of the victory.

With 18 seconds on the clock, stall running high, Markette delivers the breakside blade to go up three and leave 10 seconds on the clock. Without the play of Kittross-Schnell, who both caught this goal and then disrupted the dangerous Ian McClellan huck to end the fourth.

It isn’t just the ability to make plays which vaults a player into the vaunted top tier, it is when those plays are made. Everyone in the MLU can complete the blade that Markette threw. The difference is when and in what context the throw is executed. Are you attempting to send your team to the MLU Championship game or are you warming up?

Boston was sent to the championship game by the team’s performance. However, the booster pack which helped them out of seemingly every tight spot was Josh Markette.

Seven On & On Anon…

1. Billy Sickles performed at a very high level.

In fact, in this game outperformed Tyler Chan, his foil (Or is Sickles the foil of Chan? Is it a two-way street?). However, Philly suffered through key errors from Baer and Rainwater which put this game out of reach. The success of the Spinners over the whole of the season rests squarely on the shoulders of Rainwater on offense after the pull and Baer on offense after the turn.

2. When the Rainwater Runs Out
Boston up 19-15 pulls from midfield. Rainwaterdrop on a McClellan huck. Boston turn out the back of the end zone. Rainwater underthrows a huck, Boston throws a few passes before they realize Christian Foster is in the end zone with nary a Spinner within 40 yards.

3. This bounce reminds me of
…a similarly bouncy throw to Graham in New York.

4. That was a better throw than you acted.

5. Using that Therapeutic Device for Your Skull?
I know we all have suture joints which divide our skulls into separate bones thereby providing elasticity and all, but is this really the best way to use the muscle-rolling tool?

6. Christian Foster
1. Is the king of midfield pulls. 2. Is good at the rest of the pulls too. 3. Is a very dangerous defender for opponents. Not sure he’s been granted his fair share of accolades, but his play has been good and vital for the Whitecaps over the course of the season.

7. Lotta retired players in the stands…
… some old familiar faces… just nice to see folks from years ago traipsing around the country/world playing ultimate… now “getting out to a game now and again” and sharing their thoughts on the way this whole human journey on a spinning blue marble is going… ultimate remains a useful way to stay tethered to the earth and connected to your friends and selves over time. I always smile when I see my teammates and opponents from back when we were so much younger then… thanks for coming out!

Midfield Heave as Time Expires

Boston becomes the first team to earn a trip to two MLU title games. Can they be the first to win? Could this be the first year a Western team wins? August 8!