Photo by Paul Andris – Ultiphotos.com

A pre-game storm and a lightening delay couldn’t keep a win away for the Philadelphia Spinners as they defeated the Portland Stags to take the title of the MLU Champions.

Saturday’s forecast for the 2016 MLU Championship game brought nothing but downpour just a couple of hours before the matchup.  However, despite the weather, the Spinners, the Stags, and the whole MLU crew knew that the show must go on. Once the clouds cleared and the teams were warmed up, it was time to make MLU history as Philadelphia and Portland made their way out onto the field, each looking for their first title.

“We are so glad to back here playing at Franklin Field,” said Eastern Conference Coach of the Year from the Spinners, Head Coach Darryl Stanley. “We are so grateful for our success and the support of our fans. We are honored to get a chance to play in front of the fans just one last time this season where it all began for the Spinners.”

With a championship on the line, both teams faced each other for the first pull.  The disc was released – and the game was on.

The first quarter was fast and furious as well as filled with ties for both MLU teams. The Spinners made a solid first impression to the Stags, as Nick Patel scored the first goal of the game just over a minute thanks to an assist from Matt Esser. As the Philly fans in the stands roared at the first of many scores made by the Spinners, the Stags knew this wasn’t going to be an easy match up for them. So, naturally, the Stags fought back like the team that has dominated the Western Conference over the past three years, tying up the score with Philadelphia a total of three times in the first quarter. Oh, but they were just getting started. Portland managed to outscore the Spinners for the first quarter, 5-3. The Stags lead had the Spinners and their fans in shock, while it had Portland fans that made the trip on their feet.

As the second quarter began, the Spinners worked together to turn the tables of the Stags. It all began with some incredible veteran work from Billy Sickles and Nick Hirannet to score the first of four goals the Spinners would record in the quarter. Then, now tied, Spinners’ rookie Ethan Peck took flight to bring in a callahan to take back the lead! As Peck’s teammates rushed him after the catch, the fans went wild, giving the Spinners a jolt of energy. The energy ignited the Spinners, inspiring the defense to lock down granting the Stags a lone point for the remainder of the half.

Unfortunately, as the first half ended, all the fun and excitement of the Championship game was put on hold for a two-hour delay.  It seemed like Mother Nature wasn’t as happy about the game as MLU fans were as lightening lit up the sky.  Fans were starting to wonder if the pause in play would slow the Spinners’ roll.  Coach Stanley eased their worries; “They are keeping themselves prepared, warm, and focused. We are more than ready for when the game resumes.”

When the time came for the second half to begin and the skies cleared once more, Coach Stanley was right that the Spinners were ready – both teams were.  The third quarter  brought a bit of back and forth scoring thanks to Raphy Hayes setting the trend early on when the Stags pulled even on the scoreboard at 7-7, just moments after the start. Unfortunately for the Stags, that was the closest the score would ever be as the Spinners plowed through the remainder of the quarter with a three goal streak to permanently take back the lead.

Then, it was down to the final 10 minutes. In that last quarter, anything was possible and Spinners and Stags players (and their fans) knew that.  

Ten minutes.

It was just 10 minutes until the 2016 MLU season was over with one team victorious.

The final quarter was truly incredible for the Stags as they started to turn the game around, keeping the Spinners from scoring for over three minutes. The Portland team even managed to outscore the Spinners 3-2 in an attempt to catch up, including a callahan of their own. However, despite the Stags making the most of their last 10 minutes, the Spinners took the 14-11 win and the 2016 MLU Championship!

“This game was really interesting…” said Head Coach Darryl Stanley after the on-field celebrations and trophy photos. “It become such a defensive grind, you know, very fortunately for us we identified some key matchups against Cody [Bjorklund] and Raphy [Hayes] and [Timmy] Perston and [Peter] Woodside. These are guys we game planned for… I think we rolled the dice, and I think got it right.”

The 2016 Championship game was a stellar way to end the season for Philadelphia and it was all because of some incredible plays and some solid teamwork. After Coach Stanley and his team recieved the MLU Championship Trophy, Charlie McCutcheon was recognized as the Championship MVP. The second year cutter tallied two goals and two blocks that had the fans on their feet. Coach Stanley had some fond things to say about Charlie’s performance during the game, “McCutcheon really did his work on the field today.  It was his block in the third quarter that made the break possible and lead us right in to that three-goal run.  We couldn’t have asked for a better play.”

The final Spinners scorers of the game were: David Brandolph with the leading offensive effort tallying two goals and an assist, Jack Casey and MVP McCutcheon with two goals each, and Patel, Matt Glazer, Sickles, Peck, Himalaya Mehta, Hirannet, Leon Chou, and Vince Reydams with a point a piece. Of course, these goals couldn’t have been made possible without some stellar assists.  Gabe Colton, Esser, and David Baer lead the team in assists with two a piece that contributed to the scoring effort.  And finally, we can’t forget the defensive plays that kept the Stags scoring efforts at bay from McCutcheon and Greg Martin.  The two players tallied two blocks a-piece and along with the cooperation of their teammates, made the win possible, holding the Stags to their lowest scoring output since their first game in 2013.

“We are so happy that we had the opportunity to play the Stags,” said Coach Stanley.  “This was our first time playing them and we knew going into this just how huge they were.  After studying the players and their plays prior to this game, we knew that they would put up a tremendous fight on the field.  After watching them in-person today, they definitely deserved to be the top team in their conference because they have a lot of trust in each other and they’ve got some great players.  All of that made this Championship game and the MLU 2016 season awesome.”

And that’s a wrap!  We’d like to thank our fans, players, staff, and sponsors for an incredible season.  We can’t wait to see you in 2017 for the next action packed season of Major League Ultimate!

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