Hawks take on LA Dragons in Harbor City: Post-game (by James Bingaman)
It takes roughly six hours to get from Tempe to Los Angeles. The journey, whether by van or car, is often met with good tunes, a stack of pancakes, and the obligatory stretch while getting gas. This weekend was no different as both the men’s and women’s sides headed down to Harbor City to compete in the SCAFL metro competition. Often times you would call an author lazy for describing the weather as “perfect”… but it was. Nothing beats 75 degrees, no clouds in sight, and a gentle sea breeze blowing through. Especially if you’re used to training and playing in a place like Phoenix. Blah. Enough about the trip and the weather. Time to get to the important information!
Lady Hawks def. LA Dragons 45-25
I have seen some good games of footy in my time, but I would be hard pressed to think back to a game that highlighted teamwork and toughness more so than this game. The Lady Hawks, led by Melissa ‘Pony Girl’ Wilhelm, truly showed how Australian Rules Football is supposed to be played. All of the players kept their head down when attacking the ball, they ran into open space, they maintained possession, and while their shots on goal were a little off in the first two quarters, they came roaring back in the final two terms to take a definitive lead over an established club.
Dani Marshall, with a kick that made everyone on the sidelines ooh and ahh, dominated the backline and held it down for the Lady Hawks. At this moment her uniform is soaking in stain remover. In Olivia Huesing’s first footy game, she not only made some big hits that you could hear in the parking lot, but she also made one of the best plays of the day as she kicked the ball over her head as she was being tackled to the ground. Another new player, Angel Bishop, showed off her rugby skills and forced LA’s best player to retreat to the backline because she stuck on her like glue. Hawk’s veteran Vanessa Ortiz, in her signature Arizona flag headband, got into space time and time again, helping the Hawks continuously pummel the ball into the forward line. In the middle of the field was pocket-rocket, Casey Troy, who never backed down and once again demonstrated what pace can do when moving the footy from one side of the field to the other. Finally there was Cassie Cox, who not only slotted a few goals for the side, but stamped her name in the middle of the field. It was hers. Having someone like Cassie in the middle is what will make the Lady Hawks successful moving forward. Melissa, who is weeks removed from knee surgery (!), showed why she is a savvy veteran, and the leader of this team.
The game cannot just be summed up by the big hits from Melissa and Olivia, or the incredible handball movement from Casey and Angel. This win came from a team who never let up and never backed down. We should all aspire to play the way the Lady Hawks played on Saturday. They are a fantastic example of how you should play footy.
LA Dragons def. Arizona Hawks 61-42
After the SCAFL Grand Final, the depleted and battered Hawks side took the field against the LA Dragons. From the first bounce until the last, the Hawks stayed in the contest and never looked overwhelmed; a much improved result from their first game against San Diego. The middle of the field was patrolled by Jason “Pony” Wilhlem and James Bingaman (who did not get hurt this time), with help from Hudson Garcia and Ryan Marshall. The LA Dragons really had no answer what the Hawks had going in the middle as Pony won the majority of the ruck contests (like always). As the game progressed, and with James being double teamed, Hudson and Ryan were able to create space and move the ball up and down the wings successfully. The ball movement in the middle lead to some great scoring opportunities for both Pony and James, with the latter scoring an incredible goal from the pocket with his left boot (I may be a little biased).
The back line, held down by Dan Hall, Greg Owen, and Mike Whetzel (until he unfortunately had to leave due to a lower leg injury), was able to keep the LA Dragons in check for most of the game. Dan, as the last line of defense, used his speed and ever improving kicking ability to clear the ball back out to the wings, while Greg used his physical presence to not only contain their big forwards, but also rattle a few players as well. This was Mike’s first game of footy, and while he still has a lot to learn, he showed a lot of promise as a lock down enforcer.
The forward line for the Hawks saw Travis Johnson and Preston Linser use their size to jostle for position and take some strong marks in front of goal. One of the main things that the Hawks had been working on at practice was offensive positioning and leading into the space. Both of these players should be commended for their efforts on the weekend, with Preston kicking his first goal of the season (from a tough angle). Alex Fernandez used his small frame to get to the feet of the big men like a seagull diving for the spare chip that was dropped on the ground. The forward line was rounded out by Justin Muilenberg, who contested marking contests all over the field, and Darren “Dad” Henderson who showed that he still has it. Once again, Jeremy Valerious was all over the field and didn’t hesitate to help his teammates when they needed numbers.
Although the score didn’t end up in their favor, the Hawks were only outscored in the second half by a single point. This is an incredible turnaround for the team. The players left the field with their heads held high as they showed unbelievable improvement in every aspect of the game.
We would like to thank the LA Dragons for the games, and for providing both teams with players. The games were physical, a little chippy at times, and tiring, but the most important thing is that everyone had fun. The day really can be summed up with one word; amazing. This club is on the rise. Keep an eye out for the Hawks.
Harbor City, CA