Round Robin Write Up
A new year, a new tradition?
This year, instead of the usual trip to Solstice, Sockeye, Furious George, and Rhino played in a round robin tournament in Portland, Oregon, which featured a Saturday with split Rhino and Sockeye squads (and Furious staying as a unit to prepare for Worlds), and a Sunday with each team joining their forces to play head-to-head against each others’ full squads.
Sockeye split teams by O and D. The Offense, working on incorporating some new talent as well as finding its rhythm and chemistry together, started the day well by besting both the full Furious George squad, as well as half of Rhino (who had split down the middle, without an O or D defined difference as the Fish had). Beginning their day against Rhino X (or Y, unclear), The Bruce, Seth Wiggins, and Aaron Honn were controlling much of the Rhino’s performance, playing very well in their isolation side-stack. Sockeye’s O-line relied on great plays from Vehro Titcomb, getting a big block on a long huck, and Mark “Hero” Burton catching a nice long goal and working well as a continuation cutter downfield. Spencer Wallis, following a goal-line turnover, immediately got it back with a massive layout catch block to fuel the fire for the Sockeye O-line, who were able to take this.
In the O’s game against the other Rhino squad, the team saw its defensive intensity lead the charge as Nate Castine and Chris Kosednar forced multiple turns in the handler set through strong dump defense and quality marks. Phil Murray caught several goals as Mike ‘MC’ Caldwell did an excellent job of getting open and creating space upfield. Rhino’s Cody Brjorkland was able to get off several big OI flick hucks and an awesome hammer goal. Several of Rhino’s tryouts also stepped up with some great breaks and give-go’s, highlighting one of Portland’s major strengths this season. In the end, quality decision making and an ever growing defensive pressure allowed Sockeye O to take the game by a few.
Against Furious, who ran numerous junk defense sets, the O found success by working patiently and avoiding lazy throws, which were what FG were looking to attack. Furious has a very aware defensive unit, which fronts downfielders and offers help defense deep from the weak side cutters who are not active. This got blocks on the Sockeye O if they weren’t looking for these hunting defenders. Of note in the game as well was a truly fantastic greatest from Spencer Wallis, leaping well out of bounds and somehow managing to throw a catchable throw back in-bounds from a full layout to maintain possession on a Sockeye overthrow.
The Sockeye Defensive squad had an opposite day, starting off with a loss to the Furious full team. The deep shots were not connecting well, and defensive intensity simply hadn’t hit 100%. Furious was without their eastern additions that would make them Team Canada (Hassell, etc), and thus were purely Furious George for the weekend. Their downfield movement was very well-scripted and timed, and combined with poor heads-up defense from the Sockeye D-squad and multiple miscommunications on switches, the Furious offense quickly and easily ran through the D-team. Offensively, the D would let any pull outside of the endzone hit the ground and call a set play, as if after a turnover, to give the defense more realistic reps since they will rarely if ever be receiving pulls. Many kinks were worked out with this approach, and this game would prove a good stepping stone in the D-line’s improvement over the weekend.
Next came the Rhino split squad, led by Mario & friends. Again, the Sockeye D-line was not hitting top gear, although it was a substantial step up from the Furious game. The offensive deep looks were still not hitting well, although defensive pressure began to mount and switches were worked out better. In the end Rhino took this game, although it was close.
To end the day, Sockeye’s D-line faced off against the other half of Rhino, a substantially taller group led by Bruce and Seth Wiggins. What stood out this game was the legs of Sockeye’s D-line overpowering what seemed a tired Rhino squad. Multiple big blocks, coming from Todd Sliva, Xtehn Titcomb and others propelled this D-squad to victory in their final game, also leaving the Sockeye O-squad impressed as they watched on a bye. After the game, all teams bonded over beers and shared stories.
This is the first of many times these regionals rivals will face one another, yet with the new bid structure, the vibe has changed. Now, each team roots for the other to compete well during the season, as each hopes the rest will do their part to bring the region much needed strength bids come Regionals. It is a strange departure from the days of old, where strength bids were pre-determined by last year’s nationals, and the rest of the bids had nothing to do with actual performance.
In the evening, teams continued to hang out, as Rhino was kind enough to host Sockeye at their homes. Muchas gracias, Rhinoceras.
Sunday began with a late start for the Fish, as Furious would play the first two rounds with the longer drive home. After a nice breakfast, the Fish watched as Furious toppled Rhino in the first round, and warmed up. Every Fish commented how excited they were to join their O or D line brethren, and the excitement was evident as the Fish put in their first O point and immediately broke on a tight defensive point that forced a tough catch & drop, followed by a quick score. Furious simply didn’t seem to have their legs under them after what must have been a tiring Rhino game, and Sockeye was feeling fresh. The D-line was able to put good pressure on Furious throughout the game, and the Fish Offense looked strong, moving the disc very quickly both vertically and horizontally, taking the game 14-10.
Rhino was up next. By now, some Fish were relatively banged up, and the D-line was down to 10 players. However, the pressure continued to look good against Rhino, whose errors seem to multiply as they occurred. Sockeye capitalized quickly on many of these turns, although there were notable plays from Cam Allison-Hall and especially a massive Aaron Honn sky that portend great games to come. Sockeye wins, 14-11.
Coming out of the weekend, it’s clear that Rhino is much better than their Flowerbowl games would reflect, and is far better yet than even their round robin results, lacking Dylan Freechild and others. Shout out to ex-Fish Aaron Talbot who ran us ragged in his Gilligan hat.
Furious George will have another season of double-peaking ahead of them, which poses a challenge. However, given their sub-par performance at last year’s nationals after such an excellent showing at regionals, that taste has not left their mouths and I highly doubt they’ve forgotten it either. I fully expect a strong Monkey come ECC & Labor Day.