Things went a little bit differently this week. Instead of one game, there were two with one at home and one away, and the DC Breeze lost to a team with a losing record. The only thing that was not different was another classic double overtime thriller with the New York Empire. In the spirit of doing things differently, so will be this week’s Stats Analysis piece. Instead of looking at the team as a whole, we’ll take a close look at one of the unsung heroes of this past weekend, Nathan Prior.
In his rookie season in the AUDL, Prior has found his way into the lineup of five games. As with every season, it is always tough to field the same top players every week, with some key players missing games and others suffering injuries. Unlike fellow AUDL rookie teammaes Lloyd Blake and Delrico Johnson, Prior does not have the previous professional experience of playing in another league.
Coming into this weekend, the 24-year-old had split his time between the offensive and defensive lines. He had played 57 points (averaging 19 per game) finding the end zone once and throwing three assists. Standing at 5’9″, his natural position is a handler and had quietly completed all 59 of his pass attempts.
Fast forward to this weekend and the first contest of the season against the Philadelphia Phoenix (2-6). The squad was missing primary handler Alan Kolick for the third time in 2017, and O-line cutter Jeff Wodatch was also missing. Moving veteran Markham Shofner to a cutting position, head coach Darryl Stanley pulled Prior into the empty O-line handler position. Prior made an immediate impact.
No one handled the disc more against the Phoenix than Prior (47 touches). On top of that, he went an outstanding 46/46 passing, continuing his season-long streak of perfection. Adding a goal to his stat line, it was quite the first AUDL start for the rookie.
Moving ahead to Sunday and looking for a regular season sweep against the Empire (2-5), Stanley called on Prior again.
“Based off of what he did [on Saturday], I just had to put him in the lineup [Sunday]. I had to,” said Stanley. “I made some late substitutions because I was like, Nate is giving us something that is new.”
In fact, the original 20-man roster for Sunday had Prior inactive. Moving some key pieces to the inactive part of the roster, Prior found himself back in the game. Boy did it pay off, too, as once again he had a perfect passing day of 40/40 throwing with an assist. The most memorable of the throws by far was the hockey assist in double overtime, an inside-out flick to a streaking Blake who caught it one yard short of the end zone and a universe point goal. According to Stanley, it was Prior’s first attempt over 20 yards all season. After a timeout, Blake tossed the disc to a wide open Max Cassell for the win.
Prior is still perfect on the season, now 139/139, far surpassing Blake who started the year 57/57. The Maryland alum is the clear leader in completion percentage on the Breeze and will no doubt find himself playing in more contests. DC was already loaded on the offensive side of the disc heading into the season, but now the coaching staff has an additional factor to consider. It is a good problem to have.
In addition to Prior, four other players had a perfect weekend throwing the disc with more than 10 completions. Only David Shields (19/19) and Prior played in both contests, though. Alexander Taylor was 11/11 on Saturday and Keven Moldenhauer and David Cranston were 11/11 and 14/14 respectively.
For the defense, there were 10 blocks in Philadelphia resulting in four breaks. At home against the Empire, the team had 12 blocks and six breaks.
Breeze Top 5 Performers (2 Games Combined):
Max Cassell: 8 goals, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 38/42 throws (+10)
-Season plus/minus is +32 (3rd), leads the team in goals (24)
Tyler Monroe: 3 goals, 11 assists, 60/63 throws (+9)
-Season plus/minus is +36 (2nd), leads team in assists (33), second in goals (22)
Nathan Prior: 1 goal, 1 assist, 86/86 throws (+2)
-Leads team in completion percentage among players with 100+ attempts (100%)
Lloyd Blake: 4 goals, 5 assists, 1 block, 94/97 throws (+7)
-Second in completion percentage (97%), tied for second in blocks (9)
Markham Shofner: 4 goals, 3 assists, 1 block, 37/40 throws (+5)
The Breeze will battle for first place yet again this weekend at Hotchkiss Field. Four-time defending Eastern Division champions Toronto Rush (6-2) challenge the Breeze (6-3) Sunday at 2:00 pm. [TICKETS] The winner of this game will also hold the season series tiebreaker between the two teams.