April 16th, 2016 — The AUDL’s ESPN3 Game of the Week featured a pair of SoCal rivals that have a history of close and exciting battles. The San Diego Growlers played host to the Los Angeles Aviators and looked to get revenge after last week’s furious comeback attempt ended in a narrow one point loss. The setting for this matchup was picturesque Balboa Stadium in the heart of downtown San Diego, and it was clear from the stands that the fans came out in a big way to support these two teams.
San Diego started strong on offense by scoring easily, then Zeke Ivers wowed the crowd with a layout defensive block as the Growlers broke to go up 2-0. Mark Slader rode the momentum wave next with the bookend defensive block and goal for a second Growlers break. San Diego had another chance after a dropped pass, but LA got the disc back and punched in their first score, 3-1. The Aviators played good dump defense on the next possession and intercepted a Growlers swing pass to get their first break to draw within 1 point, 3-2. After an offensive turnover, the Growlers smartly double teamed an Aviator player on the sideline and forced a throwaway to hold on offense, with Steven Milardovich hitting Travis Dunn, 4-2. LA and SD traded scores, and the Growlers would go on to break for the final score of the 1st quarter on a deflected deep huck to take a 3 score lead, 6-3.
LA received the pull to start the second quarter and broke the zone with a couple of nice throws to climb within 2 scores, 6-4. The Growlers scored on O, the teams traded goals, and San Diego came up with another break score when Nick Smith fed Dom Leggio, 9-6. With excellent anticipation of a floaty swing throw, Cody Kirkland secured a nice Callahan highlight catch to put his team up 10-6. Each team traded scores until 11-8, when the Aviators produced two timely breaks to shave the deficit to 11-10. LA had another chance to break, but a huge layout block by Milardovich allowed Dunn to hit Ivers to hold on offense, 12-10. With only a few seconds left before halftime, Josh Nickerson came up with a leaping interception in the Aviators end zone to thwart the LA deep threat.
The Growlers started the third quarter on offense, and after turns from each team, the Aviators came away with the deep huck score, and then capitalized on another SD mistake to tie the game at 12’s. San Diego righted the ship on offense when Ivers dished to his college teammate Max Hume, and then the Growlers summoned 2 more break points of their own to extend the lead to 3 goals, 15-12. The Growlers had a chance to go up by 4 scores, but LA had a great layout bid on the end zone and eventually held on offense for 15-13. The Aviators struggled with the Growlers defensive zone pressure, and had another miscue that turned into a score for the home team, 16-13. Time was winding down in the third quarter, and LA had a good chance to cut the lead by two, but ultimately could not execute before the horn sounded.
The Aviators started the final quarter on offense and methodically scored a goal to pull within 2, 16-14. The Growlers next centering pass floated a bit too high and allowed an LA defender to tip the disc and led to a short throw for a break point, 16-15. San Diego looked a bit shaky on their next offensive possession but some relentless cutting by Brian Zid eventually paid off with a hammer catch for the score. Both teams would trade offensive points to put the score at 18-16 with 6:18 remaining in the game. The subsequent point was the longest and probably the most critical of the game, and after several turnovers, 2 timeouts, and a layout block from Milardovich, Kirkland found a sprinting Dunn in the end zone for a huge 3 point lead to make the score 19-16 with 2:07 left on the clock. The Growlers strategically came out in their tried and true 2-3-2 defensive zone, which ultimately yielded an Aviators score, but also burned more than 1 minute off the clock. The Growlers milked the rest of the clock away on offense by completing small dump passes and secured their first win of the season in front of their home crowd of over 500 fans.
The Growlers were led by Zeke Ivers with a +5 performance (3 assists, 2 goals, 1 defensive block, 1 turnover), with Travis Dunn (1 assist, 4 goals, 2 defensive blocks, 3 turnovers) and Nate Bridges (1 assist, 3 goals, 1 defensive block, and 1 turnover) coming up with huge games as well.
San Diego will travel north to play the San Francisco FlameThrowers this Saturday for a 1 game road trip, then will host the Seattle Cascades on April 30th at Balboa Stadium. Every game in the West Division will be a fight this season, but with a win under the Growlers’ belts, they are sure to feel very confident against any team going forward.
More pictures can be found at sdgrowlers.smugmug.com.
Watch the full game replay here.