Tuesday Toss: On The Verge Of History

August 2, 2022
By Evan Lepler

Time expired on the 2022 regular season on Sunday evening, but not before arguably the most bonkers buzzer beater we’ve ever witnessed in the history of the AUDL. It may not have been a pivotal play in terms of determining a result—the Minnesota Wind Chill’s win over Detroit was never really in doubt—but the miraculous sequence quickly went viral as an example of disc madness. No matter how many times you watch it, it’s still unfathomable how it all unfolded.

“I was mostly in shock, like, no way that just happened, particularly because we have been on the wrong end of multiple greatests this year,” said Minnesota’s Bryan Vohnoutka

The opportunity arose thanks to a Mechanix drop on their own half of the field with 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Bret Bergmeier scooped up the disc with about 12 seconds left and got called for a travel, which forced him back to midfield with just six seconds on the clock. 

“Coming out of the travel call, I figured B-Von had a better shot to get some sort of throw off after dishing it back to him, despite leaving him a tough spot,” said Bergmeier.

Immediately after the reset, Bergmeier bolted toward the end zone, thinking that maybe he’d be able to make some sort of play on Vohnoutka’s prayer. Despite a double-team on the mark, Vohnoutka impressively squeezed an inside-out flick downfield with four seconds left, but a Detroit defender skied for it and batted it back toward the thrower. That should have been it, but the sorcery had only just begun, as Bergmeier fortuitously found himself in the right place at the right time.

“When it ended up deflected right in front of me, I had already been thinking there’s only going to be time for a tip/greatest,” he said. “Knew Marty [Adams] was on my right somewhere from the beginning, so I just tried to get it to the end zone on that side. I was able to see Marty make the huge heads up play of tipping it into the end zone and Dylan [DeClerck] spin and make the layout catch. Wasn’t sure right after if it was going to count, but the sideline and fans were excited, and that was a pretty fantastic moment.”

Indeed, Bergmeier’s in-field chicken-wing greatest, followed by Adams’ wizardry near the goal-line, led to DeClerck’s lunging layout grab to cap the stunning buzzer-beater, a mind-boggling play that fans in Minnesota will be discussing for a very long time. 

“I knew that we had no more time on the clock for an extra throw and yelled for Marty to mac the disc into the end zone,” said DeClerck. “At that point, the disc went over my head, so I knew that I had to layout in order to try to make the catch. The B-Von throw through a double team, the Bret catch and throw, and the Marty mac were the most difficult aspects of this play.”

I’ve watched this play close to 100 times now and I still cannot believe how it happened. Somehow, it was both a complete fluke and a dazzling display of skill. Bergmeier’s reaction time after the defender’s deflection was diabolical, and Adams’ instincts and execution were jaw-dropping too. Also, none of it comes to fruition if DeClerck can’t make the sweet layout grab or if B-Von can’t squeak the throw through the double-team. 

[Jake] Kenniv actually gets a piece [of the throw] with his foot, but it wasn’t enough to affect the disc,” said Vohnoutka…I thought Marty was just going to jump it into the end zone but supposedly he heard Dylan say ‘tip it!’ All those mac lines and stuff you mess around with on days off can come in handy.”

“Inconceivable,” exclaimed Minnesota play-by-play announcer Alex Redding, who captured the insanity wonderfully with his flabbergasted tone. 

On Monday morning, the play appeared on SportsCenter’s Top 10, adding to the prestige of crazy highlight that’ll be the new standard for absurd buzzer-beating sequences heading into the future.

“I grew up watching the SportsCenter Top 10,” said DeClerck, “but never imagined I would get the chance to be on the list with my Wind Chill teammates! Such a cool experience!”

The Full Field Layout

Even with Madison losing and Austin dominating on Friday night, the Week 14 digest still delivered considerable drama. The Radicals home loss against Chicago secured Indianapolis’ place in the postseason, while the Sol’s rout over the Cannons officially clinched Austin’s playoff date at Carolina, but the point-differential storyline—as detailed last week here in the Toss—remained a fascinating wrinkle of Saturday’s action.

As a refresher, Chicago entered its final game against Detroit at 10-1 and with a point-differential of plus-48. Meanwhile, Colorado was 10-1 and plus-47 heading into its finale against Portland. Both were chasing Carolina, who finished the season 11-1 and plus-60, though neither team was focusing on that particular pursuit. 

“The point diff thing didn’t mean anything to us,” said Summit Co-Head Coach Tim Kefalas. “We play because we love this beautiful, weird sport. We love representing Colorado ultimate on the big stage. We want to put on a show for our friends and family that came out to the game to support us. We play for each other [...] The goal was to play with a joy, energy, and passion. That’s Colorado ultimate.”

Similarly, Chicago leadership also had little desire to look ahead at the big picture seeding storyline.

“Our goal Saturday night was to win the game,” said Union Captain Nate Goff, who also served as coach this past weekend with Dave Woods and Sara Gnolek both unavailable. “We have the divisional championship game in a few weeks against Indy/Minnesota, and speculating about anything beyond that game is to our detriment.”

Alas, despite declaring no such public concern over the seeding, both the Union and Summit won by significant margins, successfully, or incidentally, soaring over the Flyers in the race for Championship Weekend positioning. Chicago won two games by a combined 21 goals, while Colorado beat Portland by 16, which actually left the Union and Summit with the exact same record (11-1) and differential (+63). 

So what does all this mean?

If all four regular season division champs win their home playoff games, the Championship Weekend semifinal matchups would feature top-seed New York against the fourth-seeded Flyers in one game, with the two/three seeds, Chicago and Colorado, would match up in the other semi.

But if the undefeated Empire were to shockingly stumble against either DC or Philadelphia in the East Division final and the Union and Summit both advanced, then a coin toss would decide whether Chicago or Colorado would get the top seed at Championship Weekend. 

Intentionally or not, I do believe that Chicago and Colorado both made their roads to a title slightly easier with their dominant performances on Saturday night. Perhaps this line of thinking will be proven wrong, but from watching the entire season closely, I think that New York and Carolina are the two top teams. Now, as a result of their blowout wins this past weekend, the Union and Summit would likely only have to beat each other and one of those other powerhouse programs to win the title, compared to potentially having to beat both of them on consecutive days. 

Meanwhile, if all four win their home playoff games, then New York and Carolina are on another epic collision course. The Empire and Flyers have played a pair of regular season double overtime classics, both won by New York, and met again in last year’s AUDL championship game, won of course by the Flyers

It certainly feels like we’re gonna get another thrilling chapter of Carolina-New York one day sooner than we may have originally expected, but there are plenty of capable teams that could foil this narrative in the weeks ahead. 

The 2022 AUDL Playoffs are 11 days away, with three opening round games scheduled for Saturday, August 13. The four division title games will all take place the weekend after that, with three contests on August 20 and one other on Sunday, August 21. 

One thing to remember as the postseason begins: at least one road team has won a playoff game in each of the past five seasons. Furthermore, every Championship Weekend in league history has included a team with at least three losses. 

Either there will be upsets, or we will witness the most talented and accomplished set of semifinalists the AUDL has ever brought together.

Seven On The Line

  1. It was a weekend littered with blowouts, and only two of the 12 games on the Week 14 schedule were decided by fewer than six scores. The most exciting down-to-the-wire action unfolded on Friday night in Los Angeles, where Aaron Weaver’s overtime buzzer-beater lifted the Aviators to a 25-24 victory over the Oakland Spiders.

    “They won the coin toss heading into OT and chose offense,” remembered Weaver. “We were able to force a turnover, called a timeout, and our O-line was able to convert. “With advantage, we got to receive the disc again with less than a minute left of game-time. We worked it down the field quickly enough that we had like 15 seconds of end zone offense, multiple swings just trying to find an open look. With time expiring, Brandon [Van Deusen] saw a cluster of us and threw up a bladey flick, and I actually called off all my teammates because it was coming straight at me for an easy catch.” While victory did not shift any postseason circumstances, it was still a mighty satisfying way for the Aviators to cap their 2022 campaign. “This game our focus was to really be intentional with each other, to cheer hard for each other, to smile with each other, and most importantly to have as much fun as possible in our last game,” said Weaver. “I knew that if we did so we would get the W. And in my opinion, this intentionality paid off. There were many moments in the game that we could have mentally crumbled, but we did the best job this whole season keeping each other up, trusting each other, and fighting till the literal last second together. It was a proud game for me as a captain coming back out of retirement and trying to figure out my place this whole season. It’s a bummer that it took all year to get here, but this was by far the most rewarding game of the year for how my teammates played for each other.”

  2. The only other close game of the weekend transpired in Atlanta, where the Hustle edged the AlleyCats 23-21 in a contest that would have been considerably more interesting if league rules allowed Atlanta to swipe Indy’s Central Division playoff spot.

    Alas, AUDL bylaws permit no such thievery. The Hustle actually led by five with nine minutes left before the AllyCats scored four straight, inching within one with 4:12 remaining. But an 18-throw Atlanta hold increased the lead, and the Hustle’s 10th break of the game on the very next point basically sealed the deal. Indy’s Cameron Brock caught six goals to become the regular season’s goal-scoring king for the third time in his career, but JP Burns and Austin Taylor had five assists apiece to help lead Atlanta to a victory in their regular season finale. At 8-4, the Hustle have two more wins than a couple teams that are in the playoffs, but in the two-bid South Division, Atlanta remained on the outside looking-in, courtesy of Austin rising to 9-3 on Friday when the Sol smashed the Cannons by 20.

  3. At the bottom of the South Division, the Dallas Legion rebounded from their two-goal loss in Tampa Bay by defeating the Cannons 24-16 on Saturday night to earn their first and only win of the season.

    “It was great to see the guys enjoy the fruits of their labor with the first win of the season,” said Legion Coach Dan Emmons. “Although we expected to have a few more before that point, it didn’t detract from the excitement and joy of our first W. If anything, it kind of helped spark some excitement for next year.” Considering the Dallas AUDL franchise went 54-12 in the regular season from 2016 to 2021, a single triumph to avoid a winless 0-12 campaign is far from the standard of success, but they knew that the year transitioning from the Roughnecks to the Legion could be bumpy, and they were relieved and thankful to get a positive result heading into 2023. “In general, this season we lost so many top level players to other teams, and then to lose a couple more to injury or family commitments really stymied our potential,” said Dallas veteran Brandon Malecek. “But the future is bright with guys like Manny Bilolo, Jason Hustad, and Tyler Reinhardt showcasing their skills.”

  4. The Madison Radicals, who advanced to Championship Weekend in each of the franchise’s first six seasons, missed the playoffs for the third year in a row thanks to their Friday night loss against Chicago. The Union outscored the Radicals 6-2 in the third, en route to a 21-15 win at Breese Stevens Field, where the Rads have now dropped five of their last seven home games.

    “Chicago was great,” said Madison Captain Kevin Pettit-Scantling. “Jason Vallee, Jeff Weis, and Jack [Shanahan] were huge for them [...] Our game plan defensively was fine, just couldn’t punch it in, and their contributions closed any door to victory for us.” Madison went 76-10 in their first six regular seasons, but have gone just 19-17 since winning the 2018 championship. “It was a tough season,” acknowledged KPS. “I haven’t decided what direction we need to go in for 2023, but I’ve got a dozen ideas marinating.”

  5. The Portland Nitro began their inaugural season with such promise, defeating Seattle by five in front of a massive home crowd at their sparkling stadium on Sunday, May 1. They were 2-1 after their first three games, with the lone loss coming in double overtime against the Colorado Summit, who were on a road to 11-1. But those positive memories feel mighty distant now, as the Nitro closed their campaign with nine straight losses, including four by double digits. Portland was outscored 66-34 by Salt Lake and Colorado in the closing road trip of the season, losing by 16 goals in both games.

    Leandro Marx’s full-season stats are eye-popping, but the Nitro have little else to celebrate. Only the winless Detroit Mechanix allowed more goals this year than Portland, who finished the year 2-10 with a minus-80 goal differential. 
  6. In the second-year of keeping detailed yardage stats for every single game, there were 381 instances of a player throwing for at least 300 yards in a game and 254 examples of a player accumulating at least 300 receiving yards in a game. Both of these numbers were substantially up from a season ago. This year, on average, there were about two and a half 300-yard throwers per game, up from about 1.8 in 2021. Similarly, there were about 1.7 300-yard receivers each game, up from 1.2 last year. Across 150 games, a player recorded at least 300 throwing yards and 300 receiving yards 26 times. It happened just 14 times in 130 games last year, including the playoffs. Seattle’s Declan Miller and Indy’s Keegan North remain the only players who’ve registered 400/400 games (since the tracking of yardage stats began at the start of the 2021 season).
  7. As prognosticated in “The Hammer” last week, there was plenty of home cooking on the final weekend of the 2022 regular season. Home teams went 11-1, which made home teams 81-69 on the season. Doing the math so you don’t have to, home teams won 54 percent of their games this year. Home teams won 56 percent of their games in 2021.

The Hammer

Sixty-two in a row. 

Despite Detroit’s “high-profile" free agent signings and relentless enthusiasm towards breaking the streak, the league’s most unflattering record remains intact after the Mechanix lost two more times this past weekend. Against Chicago on Saturday and Minnesota on Sunday, Detroit was outscored by a combined total of 61-27. Wowzers. 

Nearly half—29 to be exact—of their 62 consecutive losses have come by double digits. Over the life of the streak, they’ve scored 629 fewer goals than their opponents. Only 10 of the 62 games, right around 16 percent, have been decided by three or less.

Here’s the breakdown of the margin of defeat across all 62, since Detroit’s last win on April 29, 2017. The number on the left is the margin, and the number on the right is how many times they’ve lost by that amount during the past 63 months.

1: 3
2: 3
3: 4
4: 6
5: 2
6: 1
7: 3
8: 4
9: 7
10: 4
11: 2
12: 4
13: 3
14: 3
15: 3
16: 0
17: 2
18: 0
19: 2
20: 1
22: 2
24: 2
29: 1

As I tweeted on Sunday night, if the 2023 AUDL season begins roughly at the same time on the calendar as this past year’s schedule, the Mechanix could get their next chance to take the field on Saturday, April 29, 2023, exactly six years to the day since their 23-14 win over Chicago.

It’s bewildering, baffling, and mind-blowing, but you also can’t help and respect the continued grind from so many of these dudes. Joe Cubitt has played all 36 games since 2019, losing every time he takes the field. Andrew Sjogren has suited up 37 times since joining Detroit in 2018. He’s 0-for-37. 

Yet they continue to battle, holding the flag for a franchise that’s now 16-122 all-time. Since I started calling games for the AUDL in 2014, they are 5-101 and losers of 62 straight.

I honestly and genuinely hope they can break the streak next year, but it’s clear something needs to change. Otherwise, what’s the point?