When your defense doesn’t allow the opponent to score more than five each quarter, you may have won the game. When none of your players finish with a negative plus/minus, you may have won the game. When your stats sheet is marked up next to each of your players, you may have won the game.
This past Saturday on Randall’s Island, the NY Empire did win the game, as they trounced the Philadelphia Phoenix 28-16. It was a showing of just how well the newly-formed offensive unit can work, and how stifling the defense can be this season.
It was the person-to-person defense of the Empire that has been giving teams fits all season long, and that continued against the Phoenix. While other schemes have worked well for the team, there’s been a certain unsettling of their opponent from the Empire’s person defense.
On offense, the high-scoring nature of the game was another sign that the chemistry is coming. It helps that the stat sheet for this game was full of players with high completion rates, and relatively few mistakes with the disc. In turn, the Empire’s score ended up at its highest point so far this season. “We’re not there yet but there are signs that it could be really good,” said Ryan Drost.
And on his own fast start to the season, Drost was humble. He talked of areas to his game that he’s improved upon for this season, and how that’s paying dividends so far, and credited both luck and his teammates for his stat line. “I don’t feel like I’m playing any differently,” said Drost, “I just try to bring the same energy for each point.”
No matter, the Empire ready for their first road trip of 2016 having successfully defended home turf so far this season. With team’s across the league losing that advantage, it’s an important accomplishment.
“As a team, we were generally solid,” said Ryan Drost after the game, “but need to take it up a notch in intensity against DC [next weekend], and I think we will.”
With the win, the Empire are now 3-0 on the season, and are one of only five undefeated teams left in the AUDL.
Player of the Game
Matt Lemar had a quietly great game for the Empire against the Phoenix. His stats aren’t high in any area, until you look at the number of points he played this past weekend. His 25 is tied for the highest on the team, and when taken into consideration makes his achievements this game look even more impressive. Games like these from Lemar are exactly what the Empire needs to stay undefeated.
Ian Guerin, Ryan Holmes, and Owen Murphy each also had great games against the Phoenix.
Stat of the Game
3 may not seem like that big of a number. But it’s an important one no doubt. Three is the number of defensive blocks Kevin Norton had on Saturday for the Empire. They were his first three on the season, and hopefully just the start of even more.
A stat like this speaks to the depth of the Empire’s defense. In each of the three games this season, the stat sheet has been littered with different players making defensive blocks in different games. But the power of the Empire’s defense hasn’t just shown up on the stat sheet, as the stars of the Outlaws, Royal, and now the Phoenix have found themselves limited on the field against the Empire.
[Full Empire Stats]
Around the Division
It was a busy weekend for the rest of the AUDL’s Eastern Division, with the Breeze making an early season trip through Canada. First they played the Toronto Rush for the second time this season, and lost for the second time this season in heartbreaking fashion (a 24-23 loss). Then the Breeze played the Montreal Royal in Montreal on Sunday, and were able to spoil the Royal’s home-opener. Also on Sunday, the Rush welcomed the Ottawa Outlaws to town in a battle for Ontario, and came out on top.
The Rush and Empire are now the only two undefeated teams left in the Eastern division, the Breeze and Royal are right behind them with a few wins a piece, and then Outlaws and Phoenix remain winless. It’s still anyone’s division, but with each win the Empire move themselves into a better position.
The first test against the DC Breeze is this weekend, down in Washington D.C. On Saturday May 7th, at 6:30pm, the Empire take on the DC Breeze. The Breeze are coming off of a victory in Montreal last weekend, but before that a string of losses to the Toronto Rush. More on this game in the upcoming game preview!