Aviators Preview 7/1/2022, by Official AUDL Reporter Andrew Lewis

 Aviators Round-up 7/1/2022

Welp, it wouldn’t be Aviator’s frisbee (ultimate disc?) if they weren’t attempting to mount a comeback. Rather than making up the deficit in an individual game, however, the Aviators approach this weekend hoping to come back in the standings and keep their season alive. Unfortunately for them, their hopes lie in a matchup against possibly the best team in the league, the Colorado Summit, who have yet to lose a game. Before we dive into the upcoming matchup, let’s quickly cover the brutal loss to San Diego back on June 18. 

The Aviators came to play against San Diego, this time with their fully stacked roster, and it was perhaps the most evenly matched contest so far this season. Though turns were had by both teams, neither allowed the other to gain a meaningful advantage, and they went into halftime with the Growlers barely up 11-10. One major point to note was the improvement in the Aviator’s deep game, with 7/10 hucks completed, miles above their season average. Threatening the deep space allowed for their offense to appear more settled than in prior games this year, and they were always able to answer against San Diego’s offense, led by Dunn and Helton, who each sported a plus minus of 8 and 7 respectively. With such evenly matched rosters, the outcome ultimately came down to game awareness and clock management. The Growlers were able to milk the clock and punch in the final score of each quarter except the third, with the most critical error in clock management arriving at the most crucial point of the game, where the Aviators received the disc with 1:27 to go trailing 18-19. The best win condition for the Aviators in this position was to work the clock and punch in a score in the final seconds, leaving the Growlers no chance to score, forcing overtime. Although Van Deusen hit Cook in the end zone on a beautiful cross-field backhand, the Growlers were gifted 50 seconds to march up the field and score on an exciting buzzer-beater from Helton to Dunn, who tap danced into the end zone with three defenders in the vicinity, sealing the victory. 

Looking forward to this weekend with the season on the line, the Aviators are coming into Denver with a depleted D line, as Nate Ransom, Sam Fontaine, Chris Cogswell, and KJ Koo will all be inactive this weekend. Against a stacked Colorado offense that sports elite players like Jonathan Nethercutt, Jay Froude, Alex Atkins, and Quinn Finer, it will be interesting to see what answers the Aviators have. With all the familiar faces available on the Aviator’s O-line, it will be crucial to rely on the chemistry built up to this point in the season and work the disc through the solid core of Michael Kiyoi, Brendan Van Deusen, Sam Cook, and Everest Shapiro. A matchup I’m particularly excited to see is Cody Spicer vs either Kiyoi or Van Deusen. Spicer, Colorado’s pesky D-line stalwart, will be tasked with frustrating resets and finding blocks wherever he can. For this reason, it will be all the more important for Sam Cook and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Everest Shapiro to find ways to get open downfield. Most importantly, the Aviators will have to find an answer for the Denver throwing attack, led primarily by Jonathan Nethercutt. Defensive parity is already difficult to come by in the AUDL, (as Pawel Janas so eloquently pointed out in last week’s episode of “I’m Open!”, check it out) but with a thrower like Nethercutt, defense becomes nearly impossible. One answer is to institute a double team on the sideline as often as possible to force more lower-percentage throws in hopes to force a more significant number of turns over the course of the game. That said, it is literally an uphill battle for the Aviators this weekend, and the playoff picture in the West may very well not include them barring some uncharacteristic performances from the Summit. 

The Aviators are a very young team when looking at some of the other main cores around the league, so even if the playoffs aren’t in the picture this season, if the Aviators are able to focus on building chemistry between their young stars in Van Deusen, Matt Miller, Sam Cook, Everest Shapiro, KJ Koo, and others, they can certainly be a force in the league looking forward. Los Angeles is a great albeit expensive place to live, and with this core the Aviators are one or two free-agent pickups from jettisoning back to the top half of the division. Future talks aside, no team is infallible, and a win this weekend is not out of the question for the Aviators, so I’ll table the rest of this conversation for the offseason. Perhaps with a boost from his childhood friends watching in the stands, (who taught him everything he knows), Everest will go super saiyan and put up 500 receiving yards en route to an Aviators victory. We can’t say for sure, but what we do know is that the Ringer The staff will be drinking in the stands heckling everything that moves.