Ironside Decks Doublewide To Reach Semis

Ironside blew past Doublewide into their eight straight semifinal.

Photo: Burt Granofsky -- UltiPhotos.com
Photo: Burt Granofsky — UltiPhotos.com

The stage was all set for two of the best club teams of the last five years to slug it out in a win-or-go home classic. While fans may have been anticipating a thriller, what they got was something just as awe-inspiring.

Boston Ironside obliterated Austin Doublewide in every facet of the game to take home a 15-8 win and a spot in their eighth straight semifinal. There is no other way to put it. Their offense was only broken once all game and their defense was able to bend Doublewide to its will all afternoon.

With the wind the strongest it had been during the tournament thus far, it looked as though the game could be a tense upwind/downwind affair. Ironside put the kibosh on that notion by getting a big upwind break right out of the gate. After holding downwind, Ironside got the chance to break after Kurt Gibson misread a huck. A few throws later, Christian Foster sliced a 60 yard O/I flick perfectly to the back shoulder of an open John Stubbs for the break.

The Ironside sidelines erupted as the Doublewide offense trudged back to the line. That energy imbalance carried over to the next point, as Ironside charged down on the pull with their sideline still going nuts. They capitalized on a miscue from Kurt Gibson and broke again; this time it was Alex Simmons making a play by snagging a disc right out from under two colliding Doublewide players, demonstrating a level of dexterity that would make a street magician jealous. With that score, Ironside jumped out to a 3-0 lead that they would not relinquish.

In 2012 when Ironside and Doublewide faced off in the semifinals at Nationals in windy conditions, Doublewide’s giant four man cup caused major problems for Boston. Today, with the score 3-2 and Ironside going upwind, Doublewide rumbled down in their zone hoping to snuff out the potent Ironside offense the way they had three years ago in the Sarasota wind. This time, however, Boston was ready.

Josh Markette dominated the point, crashing in and out of the cup, popping scoobers over the outstretched arms of the Doublewide defenders, and eventually shredding the zone with a pinpoint low release flick break to an unmarked Jake Taylor on the sideline. Alone in space, Taylor wound up and ripped a backhand laser straight into the wind, past a sprinting Kurt Gibson and into the arms of Danny Clark for the goal.

The score at that juncture was only 4-2, but the point was significant. Doublewide’s ace, a card that they had played so well against GOAT in prequarters, had been trumped by Ironside’s penetrating throws. Both teams knew what had happened, as Ironside’s sideline exuded confident energy while Doublewide looked rattled. Following that point, Ironside would break again, expanding their lead to 5-2. Doublewide would not try the zone look for the rest of the game.

Ironside would eventually take half 8-4 after getting another break; this time it was John Stubbs playing the hero as his tight defense forced a throwaway. He picked up the disc off of the turnover and delivered a 30 yard hammer into the teeth of the wind that pierced both the gusts and the Doublewide defense to stake Boston a 7-3 lead.

The confidence to make that kind of throw separated the two teams. Ironside seemed incapable of turning the disc over, as every scoober found its mark and every huck seemed to go just past the fingertips of a defender before burying itself into the chest of a Boston receiver for a goal. Boston’s veteran handler Josh Markette had a banner day — no one on Doublewide seemed capable of denying him resets and his range of throws tormented the downfield defenders all game.

It was a completely different story for Doublewide, as their offense which had been so confident and assured earlier in the day looked completely out of sorts. They vacillated between being unwilling to take the aggressive throws necessary and too impatient to work the disc when the shots weren’t there. A big part of that has to be credited to the Ironside defense; they gave a performance that coach Josh McCarthy claimed was probably the best they had played all year.

“The defense was great. We made them work harder than any other team they had faced this weekend. They saw some real pressure from us, and we were opportunistic off the turn. It was 8-4 at half and we just didn’t take our foot off the gas,” said McCarthy.

The Ironside marks were instructed to take away the inside throwing lane, and force Doublewide’s offense to work the disc all the way around the field before they could attack vertically. According to McCarthy, this was designed to prevent any easy points for Austin and to force their high flying offense to slow down.

“We wanted to make them work,” said McCarthy. “If they can hit an inside and quickly go break side that leads to easy scores. They had some points where they hit their arounds real nicely because we were a little flatter…but for the most part we made it harder for them to huck, and really made them grind.”

With how well Ironside was performing on both sides of the disc, Doublewide would need to play almost perfect ultimate to get back into the game in the second half. They did not.

While Austin’s offense was able to hold on their first four possessions after the intermission, their defense couldn’t touch Ironside. It wasn’t for lack of trying: Doublewide defenders could be seen getting airborne looking for blocks at every opportunity, but Ironside’s offense was operating on such a tight margin that the only way they were going to turn the disc over was if they made a mistake themselves.

Scoobers into infuriatingly unguardable parts of the field, scything hammers that raced into the hands of their targets before the defense could blink, and incisive inside breaks escaping the reach of the mark: Ironside was hitting on all of them.

It was only a matter of time until Ironside’s D-line managed to get another break. At 12-8, Doublewide’s Jeff Loskorn couldn’t quite catch up to a Tim Gehret huck that was pushed out of his reach by the wind. Loskorn took an injury sub, which allowed Ironside to sub Markette on, sealing a break that would put the game away. Going upwind, Markette and John Stubbs worked in tandem to grind 70 yards all the way up the force side of the field, finally resulting in a quick force side cut from Stubbs for the goal and the 13-8 lead. The wheels had come off for Doublewide, and the fight had gone missing too.

Ironside’s defense would break on the next two possessions to put the game away, with the scores coming off of vicious hammers from Alex Cooper and Miles Montgomery-Butler. The score line read an improbable 15-8 as a jubilant Ironside squad embraced each other at midfield and a despondent Austin team walked off the field, wondering what had just happened.

“When you get to quarters you have to play your best to win, and we clearly didn’t,” said Doublewide’s Brandon Malecek. “We dug ourselves a hole, tried to get out of it, and really just couldn’t.

“We laid an egg,” he said, reflecting on the end of the season. “It should have been a good game, but it wasn’t. It should have been a great game.”

On the other side of the field, Ironside was confident about their performance and looking forward to their return to the semis. “We just love to work,” said McCarthy. “We love to grind and have success doing so. I’m psyched that we have another opportunity to play together as a team.”

The crowd that gathered to watch the proceedings surely weren’t expecting what they got. But even those disappointed with the lopsided result have to admit that they witnessed an exceptional performance from Ironside. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, Ironside got to play the kind of game today you can only dream about, and that will be a memory all its own.

  1. Patrick Stegemoeller
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    Patrick Stegemoeller is a reporter for Ultiworld and a law student who lives in Washington DC. He captained SUNY-Geneseo Snail and began playing ultimate in high school with AUDA of Albany. He hopes that his degree in History will prove to be valuable at some point. You can find him on twitter at @patstegs.

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