The Elite-Select Challenge in Columbus looked to be in doubt Friday night, as a message from the TD said to prepare for the worst. Flash storms had left the main field site and the backup field site under inches of standing water. Fortunately, come Saturday morning, enough fields had drained that games were able to move forward as planned, albeit with restructuring to the tournament format.
In a lame joke I can’t avoid, Machine’s first opponent, Prairie Fire, struggled to ignite their offense on the wet fields. The Rowdy Boy defense worked well in unison, creating several coverage sack turnovers. The D-line then moved it quickly on the turn, and converted on 7 of 8 break opportunities, en route to a 13-5 victory.
After a bye, Machine took on Montreal’s Mockingbird, who went wire to wire with Madison Club in their first game of the day, falling 13-14. The Montreal squad found more success on offense against Machine, but a few early breaks were enough to keep Machine an arm’s length ahead the entire game. The Machine O-line did not have a single turnover after a first point slip-up (literally Wets slipped on an undercut), and the boys in 5 shades of blue cruised to 13-10 victory of our neighbors to the north.
The final game of pool play also served as quarterfinals, with only the pool winners advancing to semi’s. Madison Club, fresh off their AUDL championship the weekend before, came out a little sloppy and gave Machine a few opportunities to convert. The Machine D-line was only able to punish on one of them, prior to a chance to take a 7-4 lead going into half. Unfortunately, a deep shot from Kurt Gibson to AJ Nelson got broken up, and Madison was able to hold, then break to tighten the contest going into half-time. Some early adversity flipped the tables as Madison went on an early second half rally. Machine had back to back D points with opportunities to break on their own endzone, but both came up fruitless, and Madison was able to hold out the rest of the way to a 13-10 victory.
Saturday night, the young guns on the team got real into some game, and seemed super jazzed up about multiple “Merlin’s”. Couldn’t tell you what that was about.
Sunday morning, frustrated with the end of Saturday’s action, the squad took a personal audit and reconnected with the core value for the 2018 campaign – TRUST. A few trust falls later, and Machine’s offense came out hitting all of the pre-tournament process goals that had been outlined. Machine’s D brought the pressure on D, and was able to make Oakland Guerrilla grind out points, and turn it on multiple occasions. Struggles to convert on the turn were the only stain on an otherwise very steady performance. Those struggles did keep the game close, with Machine outlasting Oakland 12-10.
In Fifthals, Machine faced off with Atlanta’s Chain Lightning. For the second consecutive game, Machine’s offense moved the disc well, going unbroken. Machine O made quick work of Atlanta’s zone work, and pushed the tempo throughout. On the turn, the D’s effort was there, but Chain break the mark with consistency, and found open gaps to keep the Rowdy Boys on their heels. Another poor performance on the turn kept things interesting, but on the back’s of the offense, Machine won 13-10.
A cleaner weekend than US Open, chemistry is starting to build across new pieces. Machine will have one more opportunity to build on this momentum prior to the series, and that will be in 2 weeks at the Pro Championships in New York. While a few heavy hitters will be missing from the rotation, Machine does hope to return Nate Goff, Alex Evangelides, and Kevin Kelly from injury, as well as Jack Shanahan, Michael Pardo, and Ross Barker, who were unable to attend in Ohio.