Radicals Weekend Recap

Ryan Baker - Journalist

It was a weekend full of emotions for the Madison Radicals. First, it was the gut-wrenching loss versus the Chicago Union on May 31. Then, it was the rough first quarter, turned into an eventual blowout of the Detroit Mechanix on June 2.

The first game of the weekend was when the Radicals traveled down to play the Union that ended in a one-point loss, 20-19. With Madison fans traveling well down to Martin Stadium, Sterling Knoche rewarded them by getting a layout block on the Union’s very first throw of the game. 

Getting the first two scores of the game on breaks, the Radicals seemed to be on their way to a controlling win. However, things kept going back and forth as they ended the first quarter all tied up at five. In the second quarter, the Radicals were able to gain a lead of three, but a couple turnovers on the goal line allowed the Union to cut the deficit to just one entering the half. 

Coming out of the half, Madison was able to put another point on the board with a break score from Kai Marcus to Jack Nelson in a point that lasted nearly four minutes. The next point is where things started to go downhill for the Radicals. A block by Jacob Wham allowed head coach Tim DeByl to call a timeout and wholesale the D-line. 

Marcus, who has been the quarterback of the Madison offense, ended up coming out of the game with a knee issue, and didn’t see the field the rest of the game. Additionally, in the same point, a rolled ankle sidelined veteran Brian Hart for a few points. Both playmakers ended up sitting out the Detroit game, and their health will be something to keep an eye on going forward.

The Radicals scored on the rough point, going up 13-10, but then got outscored 5-1 for the remainder of the third quarter. Not only did Madison give up that run, which has been the downfall of the team the last year and a half, they let up two breaks to open the final quarter. 

“I thought we played really well in stretches. The problem is the same as last year, we can't seem to stay focused on the task. When we make one mistake, it kind of compounds itself into a couple of mistakes. Then it takes some positive play to kind of get our energy back,” said DeByl.

Madison was down, but definitely not out. They scratched and clawed their way back from a three point deficit with under ten minutes to go in the game. Eventually, it all came down to the last point, where they were down 19-20 with 25 seconds left to go in the game. A huge layout block by Mac Weber looked to set up the Radicals with a short field to tie the game in the final seconds, but it got called back due to a foul on the mark by Knoche. That effectively ended the game, with Chicago completing a couple throws to run out the clock. 

“In the moment it’s frustrating to see it happen, so it’s very important to focus on us. Controlling the controllable, because there will always be things we can do nothing about and will have to overcome in the moment. Shout out to Coach Ben, he’s great at keeping us focused on us,” said Nelson.

“Well, we try not to let the things we can't control affect our play, and I think they did a little bit. I think we didn't do a good job of ignoring the things we can’t control, and that was top down,” said DeByl.

The common theme in their two losses on the season have been rough stretches in the third quarter. A stretch of five straight points in the loss against the Minnesota Wind Chill, and that 5-1 run that was let up in the Union game were defining moments that slowed down the Radicals. 

“I feel a big key will be going into the third quarter with the same mindset we have when we start the game. We have been starting off pretty strong and have had some tough third quarters, so if we can stay locked in for four quarters, we will be a very dangerous team,” said Nelson

“It was a close game all the way to the end, but we came out slow in the third quarter and weren’t able to recover from that. We have to fight through adversity every game, this one was no different. We had our opportunities to turn the game around in the fourth, but couldn’t get the job done. It was a tough loss, and I can’t wait to see them again in Madison,” said Mitchell McCarthy.

With the tough loss and some injuries to handle, Madison hosted Detroit a couple days later with a lighter roster. Regardless, the Radicals took care of business to give them their first win at home on the season by a score of 28-20. Those 28 points are the most a team has scored in the UFA through the first six weeks of the season. 

Despite the score, Madison came out rather flat against a team that hasn’t won a game in years, being tied at five at the end of the opening quarter. However, putting up 17 points in the next two quarters to Detroit’s eight put the game on ice. 

“To us, it doesn't matter what the score is. We just need to keep playing the way that we practice, and that's how you get better. If we can maintain that consistency throughout games, regardless of the score, we're going to have good outcomes in the season,” said DeByl.

The components are there for this Madison squad to make a run, but the same issues still are at hand as last season. Oddly enough, a team that isn’t known for hucking, sits at the second-most hucks on the year, with the third-best completion percentage in the league. The Radicals also have the second-most blocks on the season, with the best break percentage, and fourth-best D-line conversion rate.

DeByl has preached all season long that they can’t lose focus, and a couple bad stretches have handed them their two losses this season. Also, their O-line hasn’t taken that small step to be just a smidge better this year. They still sit right in the middle of the pack in hold percentage and O-line conversion rate.

A few players that stood out this weekend and on the season have been Nelson, Anthony Gutowsky, and rookie Pieran Robert. Nelson grabbed seven goals this weekend in the two games bringing his total to 13 for the third-most on the team, along with accumulating over 500 receiving yards. This comes after a season-ending injury in the opener of 2023.

“It means a lot to me coming back from a season ending injury where I wasn’t sure how I’d feel after. I feel great, and I am contributing to the team how I know I can, so it feels amazing to be back on the field,” said Nelson.

Robert managed to score six times in the Detroit game, giving him nine on the season. He and other rookie Gabe Vordick both sit in the top-four on the team in goals. The two have also combined for seven assists and nine blocks in just their first few games of their UFA careers.

“I think that I have grown a lot, due to how deep our roster is and the trust my teammates have given to me. Throughout the preseason and these first few weeks of the season, we have pushed each other and are continuing to build as a unit. It is definitely an adjustment playing in the UFA, but my teammates and coaches have given me great opportunities to step up my game as a player and learn important aspects of this league,” said Robert.

Gutowsky has been one of the most consistent players for the Radicals over the course of last season and into this one. He walked out with nine goals from the weekend, bringing his total to a team-leading 20. Not only does Gutowsky rank fifth in the league goals, but also sits at a tie for the seventh-most blocks in the league with eight. 

Madison has the pieces to be a great team, but are getting hindered from little experience in high-pressure scenarios with such a young team. A huge stretch with matchups against the Colorado Summit, Wind Chill, and Indianapolis AlleyCats is looming. However, they will look to heal up and iron out the kinks as they head into the third and final matchup with Detroit next weekend before returning home Friday June 14th to take on the Colorado Summit for the first time in team history.