After two wrenching one point losses against Toronto in the last few weeks, the Breeze came out of their first match up with the New York Empire with a narrow, nail-biting win. A vibrant crowd cheered DC to victory under the lights at Gallaudet University on what turned out to be a gorgeous evening in the District after days of dreary weather.
An offensive line comprised of Bob Liu, David “Duke” Boylan-Kolchin, Chuck Cantone, Matthew “Rowan” McDonnell, Jeff Wodatch, Brett Matzuka and Jonathan Neeley was swift to score at the outset with Neeley assisting Wodatch (Neeley’s sixth assist of the season). The Empire returned the favor, and with the Breeze back on offense #33 Alex Jacoski pulled the disc out of a wolfpack with two Empire defenders for another score, sparking a Breeze point run. Brad Scott (#5) assisted John Agan (#21) for a 2nd break in a row to gain a comfortable 4-1 lead over New York.
Ample defensive pressure from Breeze forced the Empire to rely on handler resets early on. The Breeze capitalized on this stagnancy to achieve a 5-1 lead. Undaunted, New York fit in three more points before the quarter finished with the Breeze leading 6-4.
The Empire started the second quarter strongly, scoring and turning up their defensive intensity on the Breeze. Undaunted, the Breeze set up a string playing Duke and Cantone off each other to make the score 7-5. The second quarter also saw the Breeze test the waters with some zone, forcing the Empire handlers to work laterally and taking away upfield cuts. The Breeze continued to amass points against the Empire, ending the half with a 12-9 lead.
D.C.’s three-point lead continued after halftime with each team scoring quickly on offense, and Q3 finished with the Breeze up 17-14.
Despite the comfortable lead for the first 3 quarters, the Breeze met a seemingly new team in the final twelve minutes of regulation. The Empire erased the three-point deficit they had struggled with all game, catching the Breeze on their heels and holding them at 19 points while knocking out three straight goals of their own to tie the game at 19s. After a D.C. timeout with 2 minutes remaining the Empire scored again, taking the lead for the first time all evening with only 57 ticks left on the clock. With the fire lit under them, the Breeze worked the disc downfield to try to get the game to overtime. It was looking bleak at 0:10 with 33 yards still to cover when Bob Liu launched a cross-field hammer late in the stall count that sailed just over the reach of Cantone and his mark into the waiting hands of Matt Kerrigan… who immediately turned around and fired to Wodatch streaking across the end zone for the tying goal with only 4 second left on the clock! New York failed to get the hail mary as time expired, and the game went to OT.
The Empire started overtime with the disc, and both teams added another point to their totals before the Breeze got the critical break, Brad Scott assisting Brian Marshall for a crucial 22nd score. The Empire scored on their next position, sending the game into the sudden death 2nd overtime period, but the Breeze got the disc first because they had pulled to start the first OT.
Markham Shofner, David Cranston, Neeley, McDonnell, Liu, Wodatch and Matzuka took the field on offense for the Breeze to start the 2nd overtime. After a few swings and resets, the Breeze worked the disc up the near side of the field until a perfectly placed throw from McDonnell to Matzuka ended the game 23-22 in favor of the District. What a game.
Staff Writer Libby Chamberlin
Next Game: Saturday May 14, 6:30pm at Philadelphia