Photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com
D.C. outlasted the Philadelphia Spinners in a 25-23 win on Sunday night at Cardinal Stadium to put the Current in first place in the Eastern Conference.
The D.C. Current tallied four straight break points in the third quarter to bust the game wide open. That stretch of play provided a large enough buffer for the Current to withstand a furious final minute rally from the Spinners as D.C., led by Sean Keegan‘s game-high eight points, beat the Spinners for the second time this season.
The Week 4 matchup between the Spinners and Current followed a similar script to their contest that kicked off the season three weeks ago in Philadelphia. The two sides played a close first half, followed by D.C. dominating the third quarter and Philadelphia clawing back in the final moments of the game to make it close.
“The D-line really made a big difference today, it was awesome to see them not only get turns, but convert them to scores,” said Keegan. “I think one of our issues last year was making those turns count for breaks. The O-line had a few miscues in the fourth quarter, but thankfully the D built us up enough of a lead that it didn’t end up mattering thankfully.”
The two teams traded points throughout the opening frame with Philadelphia scoring the first break point of the match to take a 3-2 lead. The Spinners one goal advantage lasted throughout the first quarter as Philadelphia ended the frame with a 7-6 advantage, but wouldn’t hold much longer.
The D.C. O-line received the disc to start the second quarter and made quick work of the point as Peter Prial hit Alan Kolick who moved it to Jeff Wodatch before Keegan tapped his toes in the end zone for the score.
Photo by Pete Guion – UltiPhotos.com
D.C.’s defense would then take to the turf and after Brain Marshall just missed on a lay out bid Philadelphia’s David Baer would travel, giving the Current the disc. Nate Castine worked it up the field before hitting Brent Bellinger for the score which gave D.C. an 8-7 lead.
The Current would have to fight from behind to knot the score at 12 heading to halftime. With under two minutes remaining in the quarter a floaty pass from Kolick to Keegan got swallowed by the wind. Philadelphia’s Art Shull pounced on the opportunity and chucked a beautiful pass upwind to Alex Peters for the score from near midfield to nose the Spinners back out in front at 12-11. But as the final seconds of the first half came to a close, the Current converted on offense as Markham Shofner found Keegan alone in the end zone for the tally.
“It just happened to be my day,” said Keegan. “This is a team where anybody can be the man and put up big points. Peter’s done it, Markham, Woodatch, Alan’s done it for sure. It just happened to be me, I found some space and made some plays today.”
The tide turned in the third quarter, as the Current scored in waves against the Spinners. D.C. received the disc to start the frame and promptly turned it over near their own goal line, but Philadelphia gifted the disc right back when a Spinners player dropped a sure score. D.C. took advantage of their second chance as Shofner put up a cross field huck into the wind in the direction of Tom Doi. Doi was able to box out the Spinners defenders and tip the disc to himself for the score.
That fortuitous bounce seemingly led to several others, as on the ensuing point Philadelphia fumbled away possession near their own end zone. Bellinger quickly picked up the disc for the Current and found Robert Dulabon for the score to make it a 14-12 contest.
“The key is not only getting the turn but then being aggressive and doing something with it, punching it in,” said Bellinger. “That’s what I was able to do three times today. I just ran up and I was just super aggressive and pitched it in the end zone. It’s really easy when you don’t let the other team set up.”
With the wind at their backs the Spinners offense looked to halve the Current’s advantage, but D.C. would get layout D’s from Dan Kantor and Calvin Oung to keep Philadelphia out of the end zone. After turning it over twice already during the point, D.C. made sure to value possession on their third attempt at scoring a break. The Current patiently advanced the disc up the field before Shofner hit Prial for the score.
Philadelphia responded with a tally on the following point, as Shull’s beautiful throw bent around a Current defender and right to a closely marked Jake Rainwater. But that would be the Spinners only score in the frame, as D.C. rattled off four straight scores to take a commanding 19-13 lead thanks to their smothering defense.
Photo by Niko Duffy – UltiPhotos.com
“We did a really good job of talking about the things we needed to and then implementing those things on the field after halftime,” said Current Assistant Coach Will Smolinski. “Our D-line offense finally looked better in that third quarter. We know that we can hang with anybody on D, it’s just a matter of converting turns to breaks.”
The game would tighten down the stretch as D.C.’s 23-17 lead was narrowed to 24-22 after Michael Panna cut off a Keegan pass intended for Kolick inside of the Current’s own end zone for the first Callahan of the MLU season. Following that score the Spinners received the disc again and were able to cut the Current’s margin to just one score with 20 seconds left to play. But D.C.’s offense was able to put the contest away with a last second score to move the team to 3-1 on the season and first place in the Eastern Conference.
“I think you see that in a lot of sports, where a team gets a comfortable lead and they give back a little bit,” said Current Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer. “But I really don’t think the game was ever in doubt. We have to do a better job of closing out, but I feel like we always were in control of that game.”
Keegan led all scores with eight points, while Prial (three goals, two assists) and Shofner (one goal, four assists) followed close behind with five points a piece. Trey Katzenbach paced the Spinners offense with six points on four goals and two assists, while Patrick Diviney chipped in five points off of one goal and four assists.
The Current will now shift their focus towards hosting the New York Rumble for the first time this season next Saturday, May 10 at 6 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium.