We must have walked that field for 5 hours. We were going to leave nothing to chance. We saw the opportunity and we were going to bite it on the ass, develop lockjaw, and get dragged to death.
Prior to this event, and in anticipation of the blind layout, I was developing a field walking process that utilized a coding system of geometry and statistical analysis that would, in theory, speed up our field IQ. The idea was to pack 2 weekends into 5 hours. We tested it the weekend before the event by throwing up a random field and then trying it out. It worked for the most part. I was pleased thinking this was another tool on our belt. But when it came right down to it, walking the field with my players and getting their input and individual perspective was the key. I have some smart fellas on my crew. The guys provided me with excellent feedback and data which allowed us to develop some solid plans. And their capabilities really shined this weekend too when it came to execution. I got to really coach this weekend and though the stress was high, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Now, before I get into this recap, I want to address a couple of things… First, I want to make a comment about my friend and captain of the team, Stuart Ridgel. If you watched the webcast, you probably heard his name a lot. Stuart played lights out this past weekend, hands down/no doubt. He played the center of the field better than many of the seasoned standard bearers for that spot. But I want to make something perfectly clear… he cannot do what he does without the other 4 guys out there on the field with him. He knows it, I know it, and his teammates know it. I am not taking anything away from my boy’s performance because it bordered on legendary… but next event you very well may hear another name(s). My point is that this team is way bigger than any one player. I have a great team of men under me and their work ethic along with their discipline is a strength I wouldn’t trade for 10 Ollie Langs.
Secondly, I want to address expectations. My expectations are high but reasonable. Always will be. And here is why:
I have some real maturity on this team. My guys are Dads… great dads. My guys are husbands or boyfriends… great husbands and great boyfriends… but they are all working men. Career men. They grind all week at jobs, come home and take care of their families, and then on the weekends, they put that same energy and effort into their grind on the field. They do this because they already know that is what it takes to be successful. We manage our own expectations and focus on our goals. We met our goals at the first event. And we exceeded them at this one. We should be proud of that and we are. But we all know there is much more work to do and it isn’t going to be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. And if we fall short or fail, then we learned and you better keep an eye on us because the more we learn the stronger we get.
A few of you have asked me what are we doing differently to prepare. And the answer is the same… nothing. We haven’t changed anything. We are highly motivated and recognize that accomplishing difficult tasks takes hard work and discipline. We approach everything we can with a positive mindset, we set goals (and write them down), we track progress, we stay focused, we stay humble, we have fun, and we DON’T listen to the “noise”. We are #oneheartbeat.
With all that being said, we understand consistency is key. And it will be tough because this sport and the teams in our division are all tough. This event was a step in the right direction but Philly is just around the corner and there is still a lot of work to do.
Zen note* before I forget…
THANK YOU – Ryan Williams for the feedback and sounding board, Matty Hotard, Andrew Rodriguez, and Justin Spencer for not only being clutch along with the rest of the pit crew but dang if you guys can’t motivate with some speeches. Kellie, Jessica, Brad, and Barnes – you guys are the best! Pit Crews are often overlooked but not on this team and not on my watch. From the bottom of my heart and the team’s, thank you for your help. Because of all of you, we could focus on the tasks in front of us knowing you had it under control.
The 1st match against New York Xtreme was interesting. We were the first two teams playing the field so, both teams were feeling things out. As a coach who uses tendencies and statistical analysis during matches, I knew this first game was going to be a grinder. I wasn’t worried about the play calling but was prepared to be flexible. I knew we had good “theories” because that was all they were until execution. The majority of the time, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Planning is important, but adaptability is essential and that was the name of the game for this event. I was confident in our gun placement, laning, and zone development. But the variable was our opponent on a blind layout. Especially given the “chaotic” element of Xtreme. And for the most part I was right. Those first two points, we were just trying to go too fast. I remember telling the guys, take a beat… check off, check in, and execute… and once my guys had those first two points of data under their belts, we were good. No one wants to go down early (something we have got to stop doing lol) but there was still a TON of time left on the clock. We slowed it down a hair, rolled our guns, checked off our threats and used the center to remove pressure from the wings. We wanted to move the skirmish line and it worked. Set up in the center, get the snake to catch up, draw the guns and finally take ground on the D side to close the loop. I kept thinking Xtreme would counter with their own center and was putting assets in place to address but they didn’t do so until late in game. By then, we had a good groove/rhythm going. They may talk on the field but those dudes are some cool cats off of it. Game: Hurricanes 7-4
We had a chance to scout Heat during their match against the MLKings. We knew Chad George and Ryan Moorhead were really going to pressure the snake side 50. So, the first point we set up a trap. It worked with Moorhead taking the bait. Our guns on break paid off as well which certainly didn’t hurt. But it’s Houston Heat. They will adjust and they did. You can’t throw a rock at that team and not potentially hit an elite player. Next point we got a little sloppy in our bunkers. Can’t be doing that against a top tier team or any team in this division for that matter. Next point we conceded the center off the break to get that snake side kill and it worked. Because it worked, it allowed us to take the center immediately after on a delay. Yes, it is a gamble but no risk, no reward. However, this is the one that would haunt us. It is a 3 on 2 but because teams exit the field through the back center, we lost the count. The guys still thought it was a 3 v 3 with an opponent snake side. We let Federov spread to the d corner and allow Monville (I think it was him, don’t remember) to get out of that center laydown to the 1st snake tower. Then they proceed to pick us off. Opportunity squandered and a lesson learned. Next we wanted to go big and see what happened. We knew if we could make the spots, we could control that center much quicker. It worked… but guns on the break and a minor penalty against Heat helped. We knew Heat only put one gun (sometimes two) on the Dside so we decided to take a big bite there while getting our guns up. Truth be told, it was communication and discipline between the last 3 Canes that won that point. Moorhead got crafty on us in the next point. I actually thought Stu saw him and was countering him when he went up… so now it’s 4-3 Heat with 1:43 left in the match. We were in good position but a minor penalty for a pack hit essentially sealed the deal. At this point I am thinking about point margin. It was under a minute, we need to take the loss. And so we did. If you are wondering why we played the 8 seconds left, we thought we might get a little more laning practice in (did you notice how many of Heat we shot on the break?). One or two less mistakes and that is a different match. One thing I learned as a coach is certain elite players will always be given the benefit of the doubt. That’s twice now where an obvious hit turned the tide and cost us at a crucial point in the game. But it is what it is. You move on because that one point isn’t what ultimately decided the game. Game: Heat 5-3
Friday night, we did our homework. We had a later start the next morning as out first match would be at 10am so we stayed up a little later discussing our approach to the LVL and Kings matches. We thought LVL would adjust from the previous day and felt we had a good grasp of their game while feeling confident in our planning. ZEN NOTE – In Semi Pro, the ‘Canes had played LVL 3 times and never beat them. This was a driver for my guys headed into this match.
To be continued…. Next week, not next month