Photo by Bob Hume – Ultiphotos.com
The Boston Whitecaps had as successful a first year in the MLU as possible. 12 games. 12 victories. Undefeated from opening day until the moment they hoisted the silver disc at the first ever MLU Championship on July 13, 2013. The inaugural season of Major League Ultimate saw several of Boston’s players establish themselves as league wide superstars.
Whitecaps Jeff Graham, Brandon Malacek, Peter Prial, Josh Markette and Danny Clark looked like a modern “Murderer’s Row” of ultimate. Undefeated.
Going into 2014, the reigning champs opened the season with a significant target on their backs. Each team in the Eastern Conference spent their offseason strategizing how to knock the Whitecaps off the top of the MLU standings.
After a 2014 home opener that saw the Whitecaps defeat the visiting New York Rumble, 22-14, Boston made the trip down I-95 to the Capitol City to take on the Washington D.C. Current, for a rematch of the 2013 Eastern Conference Final.
The Current spent the off-season revamping an already powerful offense. The biggest splash that D.C. made during the offseason was with the signing of former Whitecaps’ star, Peter Prial. Prial had proven that he was a force to be reckoned with in 2013, scoring 48 points for the Whitecaps with 30 goals and 18 assists. His off-season move to Washington presented an opportunity to play with the Current’s offensive trio of Alan Kolick, Sean Keegan and Jeff Wodatch.
With the Current coming off a week 1 road victory at Philadelphia, the Week 2 matchup would give the victor sole position on top of the Eastern Conference standings.
The excitement heading into the game was evident by the large and raucous crowd at Cardinal Stadium, the new home of the D.C. Current.
After the first quarter, the two teams were matched at 6-6, with neither team converting a break. That changed quickly in the 2nd quarter, as the Current were able to follow a goal by the game’s first break. After D.C.’s Ben Fleming forced the turn, Markham Shofner found Wodatch in the endzone to give Washington a 9-7 lead.
The lead for D.C. was short lived as Boston was able to reply. After scoring on offense, Boston got the disc back when a long huck from Shofner to Eddie Peters was blocked by Boston’s Matthew McDonnell. After working the disc downfield, Boston tied the game at 9-9 when Malacek found Graham for the score. Washington threatened (where?), but Boston captain Alex Simmons swatted the disc away from XXX in the endzone as the clock expired.
With the scored tied going into halftime, the pregame excitement from the crowd increased to a fever pitch. The Current were fired up, but Boston had no intention of letting the home team build momentum.
Right out of the gate, Boston jumped to an 11-9 lead, showing every fan in attendance why they were the undefeated kings of this game. D.C. continued to fight, both teams showing effective and efficient offense late into the fourth quarter, leaving Boston up by 2 goals with just 4 minutes to go in the game, 16-14.
Knowing they were running low on time, the Current were able to dig deep and force a tie at 16 with a break goal from Brian Marshall to Bobby Gordon. After another converted break put D.C. up 17-16, Boston forced another tie as Jeff Graham twisted his body through the air to come down with the disc in the endzone with just 29 seconds left in the game.
So it came down to that. Less than 30 seconds on the clock. Both teams put their best lines on the field:
The Current offense of Tom Doi, Kolick, Prial, Shofner, Calvin Oung, Keegan and Wodatch.
The Whitecaps defense of Jake Taylor, Malacek, Christian Foster, Jonathan Hircherberger, Lee Farnsworth, Graham and Jack Hatchett.
With just 6 seconds left in the game, D.C. hucked the disc downfield for the win, only to have it sail over the head of Prial and find the turf as the clock reached 0:00.
While fans and players alike spent a split second preparing for overtime, a referee’s whistle sounded, singling a contact penalty on Malacek, who had been marking the thrower. With 10 seconds added to the clock and the disc moved even closer to the goal line, D.C. had one last chance to end Boston’s undefeated streak in regulation.
As play resumed, the disc found its way to none other than former Whitecap Prial, who sent it flying into a crowd in the endzone. Players from both teams made bids at the disc, but when cleats hit the turf, it was D.C.’s Calvin Oung who came down with it, and Boston was finally defeated.
“As soon as I caught the disc, it’s just an instinct for me to start screaming and I just ran towards my teammates,” said Oung. “That’s one of those plays I’d like to say I dream about. But I’m glad we got the win, that’s all I wanted to get. I didn’t want to go to overtime against that team.”
This victory not only put the Current on top of the standings, but also set the tone for competition in the East. While nobody underestimated the Whitecaps, the target on Boston’s back had suddenly shifted south.
“I think it showed everybody in the Eastern Conference and everybody in the Western Conference that D.C. is a team to be reckoned with this year,” said Prial after the game. “Teams are going to need to bring their A-game to beat us.”
Washington would go on to dominate the East in 2014, finishing 9-1 in the regular season (their only loss at Boston) and defeating the Vancouver Nighthawks in the MLU Championship to capture their first title.
2014 would be a down year for the Whitecaps, finishing 5-5 and losing to the Current at Cardinal Stadium in the playoffs. They would rebound in 2015 en route to their 2nd title, defeating the Seattle Rainmakers in the 2015 MLU Championship.