Wildfire Fall to Madison in First Meeting

By Adrian King

On Saturday, Chicago hosted the Madison Radicals for a highly anticipated Midwest showdown. Both teams suffered unexpected losses the week before: Wildfire on the road at Pittsburgh and the Radicals in their well-protected sanctuary against the Minnesota Wind Chill. Each team was anxious to regain the momentum of their early season.

Overlaying this situation is the fact that this was the first time the two teams met since Madison claimed the league championship last season. Chicago wanted to slay a giant. Madison wanted to reassert their standing.

If players were apprehensive, it did not show in their aggressive throw choices and defense. The first quarter opened with fearless hucks attacking the deep space. Both offenses were able to find their cadance.   

Over the course of 2019, Wildfire handlers Tim Fergus, Tommy Gallagher, and Pawel Janas have established a poised and deliberate method of distributing the disc. This proved to be crucial for navigating Madison’s defense, which creates tense, high-stall situations. Even when trapped on the sideline by double-teams Chicago’s handlers managed to break the mark, reset the stall and change the angle of attack.

Although Madison has largely moved away from their notorious zone looks, they remain capable of shrinking the field with positioning, awareness and athleticism. This, along with some Wildfire throwaways, allowed the Radicals to cache a few breaks. They took the first quarter 6-3.  

The second quarter saw a mix of brilliant and sloppy play. Both defensive squads were given ample opportunities to break, but neither side mounted a significant run.

The first half closed with Wildfire receiving the pull and 20 seconds of game time remaining. They worked the disc patiently to 25 yards outside of the endzone where the expiring clock forced Jack Shanahan to loft a huck into a pile of players. In this situation, there are few receivers you want in the mix more than Matt Rehder. He did what he does and came down with the disc to put Wildfire within 2 points (9-11) going into the break.

The third quarter looked much like the second. Several times throws were deflected by a defender only to fall into the hands of the receiver. Any of these situations could have swung the momentum. The Wildfire maintained their pace, but wer not able to chip away at the deficit.

The fourth quarter opened with Chicago receiving, down 15-17. An efficient two-throw sequence launched the disc into the hands of a streaking Michael Pardo to bring the Wildfire within one score. That would start a 4-point series of deep shots: both teams stood like heavyweights launching haymakers and waiting for the other to blink.  

Wildfire fought back to even at 19-19 but a few late breaks allowed Madison to rebuild their lead and put the game out of reach. The Radicals prevailed with a final score of 22-25.

Chicago now sits at 2-2 and 4th in the Midwest standings. Although the regular season is one third over, the Wildfire control their path to the playoffs. And, they contain all the pieces needed to win the Midwest and beyond. Several impactful players have seen limited or no playing time due to injury, including Kurt Gibson, Jesse White, and Von Alanguilan (Ultiworld’s Defensive Player of the Year, 2018), and Nate Goff (18 blocks and 17 goals in 2018) is due to return to Chicago in June. Much is yet to be seen from this team once they are at full strength.

The Wildfire host the Indianapolis Alleycats this Saturday at 6:00 PM.