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Thunderbirds Improve to 8-0 All-Time vs Mechanix, Win Thriller 23-21

                         

 

MADISON HEIGHTS, MICHIGAN – It was a hot 71 degrees and sunny at first pull at Bishop Foley Catholic Stadium in Madison Heights, Michigan as the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds prepared to battle the Detroit Mechanix, whom the Thunderbirds have never fallen to, going into the contest a perfect 7-0. With little wind and clear skies, the elements did not play a major factor in the game.

 

Joe Marmerstein recorded six assists, Tarik Akyuz grabbed five goals, and Ethan ‘Birdman’ Beardsley, Jon Mast and Kenny Furdella led the team in blocks, all recording two on the night.

 

In the first point of the game, both teams seemed to be lagging a few seconds off compared to their normal paces. Detroit won the toss, elected to receive, and promptly turned over the disc after three passes, with Kenny Furdella bidding to prevent a scoring pass up the sideline. Teams traded turnovers until the Mechanix eventually punched it in to strike first on the scoreboard.

 

Pat Hammonds made the comment at the start of the game that “…[the Thunderbirds] have come out slow every game this season. Let’s flip that script!”

 

After that first point, the Thunderbirds picked up speed and produced an offensive hold, three breaks, and another hold, jumping ahead 5-2.

 

The first quarter ended and Pittsburgh held the lead 6-3.

 

After a string of Pittsburgh breaks in the first quarter, teams traded points for most of the 2nd quarter, until Detroit converted three break scores of their own to tie the score at nine with three minutes remaining in the half. Using a mix of unforced Pittsburgh turnovers and poaching the cutting lanes, the Mechanix showed some poise as they easily made use of the turnovers to score.

 

Detroit broke the Pittsburgh O-Line again after Anson Reppermund’s attempted huck to Max Sheppard downfield was eaten up by three Mechanix defenders. The Mechanix managed to work it down the field and score uncontested in the far back corner of the end zone. The Mechanix’s fourth straight break put them up 10-9, their first lead of the game since it was 1-0 in the 1st quarter.

 

Pittsburgh finally found an answer to the damage. After a centering pass off the pull and two swings, Joe Marmerstein ripped a 65-yard huck to Aaron Watson, ahead of his defenders by 10 yards with 1:33 left in the half, tying the game back up. Pittsburgh continued the momentum with a break of their own, after a Mechanix huck was thrown inches too long and sailed out the back of the end zone. Jon Mast and Marmerstein, a truly dynamic handler duo, worked it to midfield, where Sheppard and Tarik Akyuz, a Case Western college player who made his Pro debut, took over. From 30 yards out, Sheppard fed Anson, who was streaking towards the force-side corner, with a forehand square into his chest. The break ended the first half with the Thunderbirds up 11-10.

 

Pittsburgh started the half on defense, and Jake Rovner got to work. He forced a turn on a centering pass, flying through the air from behind the cutting receiver and knocking it away. Rovner and Watson both ran deep for a throw from Nick Gigliotti and Watson was fouled in the air across the goal line as he attempted the catch. The referees placed the disc at the front center of the goal and UNC Wilimington product Xavier Maxstadt picked-up, flipping a high-release backhand to Watson, who cut across laterally to the break side who immediately whipped it to Beardsley for the goal to make it 12-10.

 

Two points later, a Mechanix defender denied Ethan ‘Birdman’ Beardsley a goal by going fully horizontal in the front corner of the end-zone. The Mechanix took over and slowly worked the disc up the sideline to mid-field, before calling a time-out to sub on their O-Line, who promptly scored past a bidding Jon ‘Diesel’ DeAmicis.

 

On the next point, after getting the disc to the far sideline around midfield, Sheppard got caught with a high stall count. A last-effort hammer to Akyuz on the opposite side of the field held up in the wind and Akyuz could not track it. Reppermund was able to secure possession again for the Thunderbirds by handblocking a throw attempt moments later which later converted into a goal.

 

Midway thru the 3rd quarter, the two tallest guys on the field connected for a massive goal. Reppermund caught a swing pass from Marmerstein at the 40-yard line, faked a flick huck, and launched a backhand huck to Tarik Akyuz, who skied his man with room to spare in the end-zone to go up 14-12.

 

Detroit held on offense, and after two more traded points, Detroit broke to tie the game at 14’s.

 

Anson and Tarik connected again with a little give and go into the end zone around their defense after some crafty offense by the handlers and other cutters. That goal put the Thunderbirds up 17-16 with 7 seconds left on the clock in the 3rd quarter.

 

With time expiring, the Mechanix fielded the pull, escaped a quickly established Thunderbird double-team, and former Thunderbird Austin Engel threw downfield into a gathering crowd in the end zone. Seven players went up for the disc, Beardsley tipped it back, but a Mechanix player was waiting to save the garbage and catch the goal.

 

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the game was tied 17-17.

 

Out of the break, in the first point of the final quarter, Maxstadt immediately found Gigliotti deep with his signature inside-out backhand, which he sent the length of the field. It was Gigliotti’s first goal of the game, and the Birds took the lead 18-17.

 

The Thunderbirds proceeded to break twice and go up 20-17. Two sets of traded points set the score at 21-18. Detroit found some energy and created a break of their own after their offense showed patience to hold. As a nature of low chemistry with his fellow O-Line teammates, Akyuz turfed a reset pass to Hammonds and the Mechanix converted on the turnover. Quickly it was only a slim 21-20 Thunderbirds lead.

 

With 1:50 left in the game Detroit’s offense held to bring the margin to within one, 22-21. The Thunderbirds received the pull, and Hammonds, Maxstadt, and Watson worked the resets and in-cuts for the first 20 yards of progress down the field. Maxstadt ripped a flick huck, effortlessly, to Rovner in single coverage. Rovner grabbed it two-handed over his defender and came down to straddle the goal-line: not in. After an injury call reset the men on the field, the Mechanix threw a double-team on Rovner. In a high stall count, he threw a high scoober straight ahead in the back of the end zone to Watson, who was all alone pushing the lead, and the eventual final score, to 23-21 with exactly one minute left on the clock.

 

An even bigger deflection, one exponentially more clutch, came from DeAmicis over “Bubbles”, a talented Mechanix receiver, with less than a minute left in the game. From there, it was a game of possession, and the Thunderbirds held onto the disc for 30 seconds without a turnover to secure the victory.

 

With Week 9 in the books, the Thunderbirds improve to 3-2 on the season, 8-0 all-time against Detroit. The team will have a week to regroup before a double-header road trip to Chicago and Indianapolis on June 3rd and June 4th respectively.

 

Game Notes:

Due to a number of factors, including College Nationals and several injuries, today’s roster featured significant changes. The team brought along:

 
Vivek Deveraj – A Pittsburgh league and club mainstay. Though it was his first game in a Thunderbirds jersey, this was not his AUDL debut! Deveraj played with the Buffalo Hunters in their inaugural season, along with former Thunderbirds Mike Pannone and Rob Dulabon.

 
Tarik Akyuz – Recent graduate and Callahan Award nominee from Case Western University. At 6’2”, he has a wicked vertical that makes him play closer to 7’. Check out his awesome Callahan video, produced by teammate Joseph Marmerstein (who made the video during our flights to and from Seattle!)

 
Zac Byrnes – Thunderbirds practice player. He turned heads at tryouts with a raw athletic talent, and Byrnes has impressed the coaches with his development at practices. He truly earned his roster spot for this game.

 
Andrew Gardner – Thunderbirds General Manager. He suited up once last year when manpower was thin, so this is not his first AUDL game. The speedy product of Miami of Ohio is a defensive player with conservative throws and sticky hands.

 
Aaron Watson – Thunderbirds veteran and leader since the franchise’s first game. After several months traveling through Asia, he’s back in Pittsburgh and will join the Thunderbirds for the rest of the season.

 

During the first point, Jon Mast threw his 2nd turnover of the season. Up until that pass, he had completed 137 of 138 throws.

 

Andrew Gardner opened the scoring for Pittsburgh with a two-handed layout to catch from rifle of a throw from Jordan Robarge. He would later catch ANOTHER two-handed layout, a hammer from Marmerstein.

 

Current Injury Report:

David Vatz (Hamstring), weekly
Tyler DeGirolamo (Groin), weekly
Scott Trimble (Shoulder), weekly
Alex Thomas (UCL, surgery), out indefinitely

May 28, 2017 | News, Pittsburgh, Team, Thunderbirds, Ultimate | 0

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