April 9th, 2016 — The San Diego Growlers made the drive north to LA in slightly rainy conditions hoping to get their first win of the season vs the Aviators, after both teams lost OT heartbreakers to SF last weekend.
By the time the Growlers received the opening pull, the rain had passed, and the San Diego offense started conservatively. After several minutes ran off the clock, the offense eventually punched in the first score, and San Diego would break on the next point to take an early 2-0 lead on Travis Dunn’s bookend circus catch. LA scored next on offense, and then the Aviators brought out their patented aggressive defense, which included fouling the mark, downfield bumping, and a couple layout bids that caused contact. The Growlers were used to this type of play but did not respond well, and had several uncharacteristic turnovers on offense. When the dust had settled and the first quarter buzzer sounded, the Aviators tallied 4 break points in a row and led 5-2.
The Aviators received the second quarter pull and continued to ride the momentum wave by scoring on offense. The Growlers finally took a deep breath and made smart decisions with the disc to stop the bleeding. The teams would go on to trade several scores until LA broke again on a multi-turn point to extend their lead to 10-5. San Diego seemed to think it could get back into the game with one throw, and it took 3 more breaks for them to learn their lesson, now down 13-5. Both teams traded offensive scores until the Growlers had only 1.9 seconds left and the Hail Mary attempt floated out of bounds. San Diego needed to regroup at halftime and get in a different mindset if they wanted to dig out of the 15-7 hole they dug for themselves.
Los Angeles pulled to San Diego to start the third quarter, and the Growlers scored an important confidence boosting point. Unfortunately, the Aviators struck right back, and then the trading of offensive scores resumed again. The end of the third quarter came as the scoreboard displayed a 19-12 Aviators lead.
With 12 minutes left in the game, the Growlers knew they needed to convert on just about every LA turnover they caused to have a chance to win. The fourth quarter started well when Steven Milardovich defended a hammer in LA’s endzone, then caught the bookend score to make it 19-13. San Diego really turned up the defensive pressure, forced a high stall count punt from LA, then converted again. On the next point, Will Griffin’s layout bid on the sideline produced yet another turn, and Dom Leggio hit Milardovich to make the score 19-15 with just under 9 minutes remaining. The Aviators were able to score on the next point, followed by more trading that yielded a 21-16 LA lead. The Growlers energy, heart, and never say die attitude were at all time high now, and they believed that this comeback was indeed possible.
The momentum had clearly swung back in San Diego’s direction, and it was boosted even more when Growlers rookie Zeke Ivers skied big for a grab over an Aviators defender, 21-17. LA’s mental game was clearly affected by the recent events, and another turnover and score by the Growlers cut the lead to 21-18 with 3 minutes left in the game. On the next point, Milardovich feasted on yet another questionable hammer, and got the bookend score again to cut the lead to 2 points, 21-19, with just under 2 minutes remaining. The next point featured multiple turnovers, which San Diego ultimately converted on to cut the lead to 1, but it took a little too much time off the clock, and only 15 seconds were left. The Growlers sent a rolling pull to the sideline to set up a double team defense, but after a couple foul calls were drawn by a veteran Aviator, LA was able to milk the remaining seconds off the clock to stave off what could have been a disastrous collapse. The Growlers lost yet another nail biter, 21-20, but scored 8 points in the final quarter to LA’s 2, and built some serious confidence and momentum headed into the next matchup.
The Growlers were led by Steven Milardovich with a +7 performance (4 defensive blocks, 4 goals, 2 assists, 3 turns), followed by Ben Clark (3 goals, 1 assists, 1 defensive block, 1 turn), Dom Leggio (3 assists, 2 defensive blocks, 1 turn), and Matt Parisi (3 assists, 1 goal) with +4 efforts each.
The Growlers are incredibly eager to get revenge against their SoCal rivals, the Los Angeles Aviators, during their next home game this Saturday evening, April 16th at Balboa Stadium, which also happens to be the ESPN3 Game of the Week!!! Come on out and witness what figures to be another exciting, drama- filled contest.
Pictures from the game can be found here.