Recap of the Baltimore Dockers’ Journey to a Men’s Division IV National Championship

In its inaugural season, the Baltimore Dockers sailed into beautiful but chilly Racine, Wisconsin ready to compete for a USAFL Division IV National Championship. The Dock Show rolled deep with 29 men, but USAFL rules only allow 24 players on a roster for each game. With a good problem to have, Coach Bryn Hansen had to make some tough decisions, but in the end, everyone got on the field, everyone had a run, and we can proudly say that everyone is a national champion!

Throughout the tournament, the entire team displayed skills that we have been working on all season long. From fitness trainings in early January at Reflex Functional Fitness to fall practices under the lights at Lansdowne High School, every member of the Dockers club put in the work for ten months to give the team a chance at a Division IV National Championship. By the end of the tournament, few could walk without pain, no one had a voice, and one unlucky lad even left on crutches.

All weekend, the Baltimore Dockers showed heart and determination on and off the field. Not only can we say that we are national champions, we can also say that we are best mates.

 

First Round vs. Seattle Grizzlies – Saturday at 12 pm

Going into the first game versus the Seattle Grizzlies, the Dockers were amped up and a tad nervous. The nerves showed in the first half as the Grizzlies used windy Racine to their advantage and managed to put up a handful of goals on the Dockers’ veteran defense. Down by quite a bit at halftime, the Dockers were determined to get back in the game.

The initial nerves dissipated in the second half and the Dockers got back to playing their brand of footy, which they had crafted all season long in training. Defenders Pete Gormley and Mike “Mad Dog” Gilbart helped shut down the Grizzlies’ offense in the second half and the Dockers prospered from having the wind to their backs with goals by Ian Payne and Albert Kobe. A punch to the throat did not stop Dan “Wristy” Zimmermann from attacking the footy all game. Bryn Hansen, Travis “Rocket” Flight, and Nick Sisca led the charge in the middle of the field as the Dockers entertained the grounds with some premiership-level footy towards the end of the game.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies’ commanding first half lead was too much for the Dockers to overcome. Seattle’s bear attack left the Dockers badly bruised, but ultimately, it was not enough to sink the ship.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Baltimore Dockers4327
Seattle Grizzlies5131

First Round vs. Atlanta Kookaburras – Saturday at 3 pm

The Dock Show did not travel all the way to Racine, Wisconsin to go 0-2 on the first day. After a close loss to Seattle, Baltimore was focused on righting the ship versus the Atlanta Kookaburras. With an early goal by first-year player Jack Chalmers, the Dockers built on that momentum and never looked back.

After multiple goals from veterans Ian Payne and Kit Drury, the Dockers’ bench put on a display that few USAFL teams could replicate. The Dock Show benefited from goals by first-year players Johnny O’Connor and Josh Hildebrand, and the cunning bloke Greg “Frenchy” Brétière scored what some are calling the “goal of the century.” (Well, he’s calling it that.)

Baltimore also profited from aggressive play by Aaron Wolff and Paul “Flippy” LaShier, who hunted the footy every second they were on the pitch. Self-proclaimed “greatest goal-kicker in USAFL history,” Scott “Stacks” Bradford, lived up to the title when he got in on the action in the second half. And Matthew “Bunda” Byrne demonstrated that age is just a number with his offensive prowess and high footy IQ.

Like that scene in “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” the Dockers’ ship invaded the grounds at the SCORe Complex in Racine. And when the final horn sounded, this massacre left the field covered in feathers and these Kookaburras were not laughing about it.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Baltimore Dockers111177
Atlanta Kookaburras011

National Semifinal vs. Nashville Kangaroos – Sunday at 10 am

Entering the semifinal on Sunday morning, the stakes were high for the Baltimore Dockers. Win or go home. Thanks to strong leadership and determined veterans, the Dockers kept their composure and were not fazed by the Kangaroos from the Music City. Shortly after first bounce, long-time veteran Kit Drury got the Dock Show started with a beautiful goal.

With suffocating pressure led by Bryn Hansen, Terence “Tez” McAuliffe and Jesse Galdston, Nashville hardly was able to get the ball into their forward fifty throughout the game. Baltimore continued to tack on points with goals by Jack Chalmers and Albert Kobe. And the midfield held their ground as the Dockers maintained a commanding lead in the second half. Onballers Ben Crenca and Nick Tyson helped control possession and Nashville’s two forward lines barely touched the ball in the second half. Throughout the game, forwards Tracy Williams and Zeluis “Ze” Teixeira used their large frames to shepherd (or block) their opponents  and create space on the Dockers’ side of the field. And attackers Mark “Ski” Salansky and Brian “Boz” Thornton helped build a zone around Baltimore’s forward fifty to prevent the ball from advancing beyond the midfield.

Nashville did their best to play their style of footy, but they could not be saved by another “music city miracle.” The only hearts getting broken in this country song were the Kangaroos’ as they hopped off the field. Up the Dockers!

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Baltimore Dockers3927
Nashville Kangaroos000

Division IV Grand Final vs. Seattle Grizzlies – Sunday 1 pm

The Baltimore Dockers were humbled by the initial matchup with the Seattle Grizzlies, but were confident they would meet the bears in the Division IV Grand Final if they were so lucky to advance that far. Determined to get revenge, the Dockers were calm, cool, and collected entering their final game of the tournament. Knowing that this was the final forty minutes of the season, the Dock Show was ready to leave everything on the field.

Despite going down by a goal early in the first half, the Dockers came sailing back with a strong core up the middle of the field. Rocket, Ian Payne, and Kit Drury led the ball movement throughout the duration of the game. Nick Sisca showed why he is captain of the club winning nearly every 50/50 ball in his direction. Nick Tyson may not be able to kick straight (with 10 behinds throughout the tournament), but he used his speed and strength in the middle of the field to keep the ball on the Dockers’ offensive side of the ground.

Baltimore held a strong lead at halftime but the shine of the cup may have distracted them from where their attention needed to be. The Grizzlies came roaring back in the second half, when the Dockers’ defense broke down for the first time all tournament. Then, after a scary injury to first-year legend Josh Hildebrand, the Dockers were inspired to get back on track. Forwards Wristy, Neale Williams, and Andrew Pike helped maintain possession of the ball in the Dockers’ forward fifty. Late in the game, the Baltimore defense buckled down with a couple of key marks by Tez and some clutch spoils by Will Lothian and Mike Horney. Albert Kobe was a true sailor providing tremendous marks and goals in the first half and defending the ship late in second half.

Ultimately, the Seattle Grizzlies put up a noble fight but were mauled by a large vessel that could not be docked. The Baltimore Dockers cruised to victory and were crowned USAFL Division IV National Champions. By hoisting the cup, the Dockers became the first club to ever win a National Championship in their inaugural season. (We are still fact checking this.)

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Baltimore Dockers4731
Seattle Grizzlies3122

Tournament Notes and Accolades

Dockers Midfielder Flippy made his umpiring debut during the championship tournament and did a fantastic job, receiving a perfect score from all the fans – except for his fellow Docker teammates who playfully heckled him from the sidelines of each game. Great work Flip!

At the trophy ceremony, Dockers President Ian Payne was named the “Best on Ground” for Division IV and Rocket was named Grand Final MVP. Absolutely well deserved!

The Dockers’ championship trophy (or “Cuppy” as we are calling it) could not have been secured without contributions by all the players mentioned above, as well as the Dockers players who could not make the trip but challenged the team in training all year. Welcome to the team Cuppy!

Thank you to our sponsors, volunteers, and board members who supported the team all season and provided the Dockers with necessary resources that made the trip to Racine possible. We could not have done it without you.

We are all National Champions! Let’s celebrate!

Despite losses, Dockers women have an a-maize-ing time at USAFL Nationals

The Lady Eagles had a tremendous regular season going 5-2 and winning the Eastern Regional Tournament in June. This past weekend we headed to the USAFL Nationals in Racine Wisconsin to close out our season.

  • 5 Dockers women played with DC and Boston at USAFL Nationals

The Lady Eagles played in Division II on a combined team with the Boston Demons and the Des Moines Roosters. We began the weekend with a chilly morning game against the Calgary Kookaburras (combined with Arizona Lady Hawks, North Star Blue Ox, and Nashville Kangaroos). The first half was a little slow for the Lady Eagles, as we learned to work together as a combined team and communicate with one another to move the ball up the field. We began to feel more comfortable as the game wore on and played stronger in the second half. It was a very defensive game, with our back line and midfield working hard to keep the ball out of the goal. In the end, we ultimately fell to the Kookaburras.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Lady Eagles000
Calgary Kookaburras3725

As we continued to gel as a team, we felt more confident going into our afternoon game against our Eastern foes, the Columbus Cats combined with the Philadelphia Hawks and Chicago Swans. The Cats struck first but Kristin scored our first point of the tournament with a behind. Lough continued our scoring with two goals of her own. However, some costly penalties led to good scoring opportunities for the Cats, who came away with the win in the end. It was a hard fought match on both sides and we were proud of the team effort that we put in on day 1 of Nationals.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Lady Eagles2214
Columbus Cats4327

The Lady Eagles continued their Nationals Tournament with a very early game on Sunday morning against the Texas Heat combined with Los Angeles Dragons and Oklahoma. The Lady Eagles struck first with two behinds by Kristin and later two more by Kendall and Lough, but were unable to capitalize on these scoring chances and kick a goal. We competed well and played strong in the defensive end. The backline led by Christina and Tatiana played particularly well allowing only one goal and a behind. However, that proved to be enough for the win.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Lady Eagles044
Houson Lonestars117

Our last game of the tournament was against a very strong side that combined two teams previously in Division I, the Sacramento Suns and the Montreal Angels. The Suns dominated the game, with the ball rarely leaving our defensive end. Our defense and midfield were relentless nonetheless, working hard to prevent further scoring opportunities and clear the ball into the forward 50. Despite a solid effort, we fell to the Suns.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Lady Eagles000
Sacramento Suns8957

Even though our Nationals did not go as we had hoped, it was still an awesome time. We were able to cheer the Baltimore Dockers to their first Division IV Nationals Championship in our first year as a club, which was amazing! We also had a great Silly Sunday celebrating the season and the Dockers’ Championship throughout the night in Milwaukee.

I could not be prouder of this Lady Eagles team as I reflect back on this 2018 USAFL season. We came together as a team and grew stronger with each game. We fielded 14-16+ players at almost every game, which was incredible. It has been so great to watch the women’s team grow over the past few years. Our Eastern Regional Championship (and celebrating the win in Philly), was of course the highlight of the season, really demonstrating the skill, talent, heart, and tenacity of our team. I cannot wait to see what the Lady Eagles do next year, as we continue to get better and stronger this offseason!

Thanks for supporting the women this year and stay tuned for 2019!

Dockers close out 2018 regular season in Philadelphia

This Saturday, the Dockers men’s team played their final games of the 2018 regular season in Philadelphia. In the USAFL’s traditional format, three teams gather in one city for a round-robin format in which each team plays the other two. The Dockers’ opponents were the New York Magpies and the Philadelphia Hawks.

The Dockers brought sixteen players, a mix of veterans and first-gamers, to face two of the largest and best-organized teams in the Eastern Australian Football League. Although the Dockers eventually lost both games, they played proudly throughout.

Game 1 started as a back-and-forth contest between the Dockers and Magpies, before the New York pulled ahead with three goals late in the first half. In the second half, the Dockers’ back line played with their trademark intensity and skill, holding the experienced Magpies without a goal.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Baltimore Dockers139
New York Magpies4428

Game 2 was a low-scoring defensive battle throughout the first half, with the halftime score level at 9-9. But as the game wore on, Philadelphia’s superior numbers made the difference, as the Hawks scored eight unanswered goals plus two behinds for a final score of 59-9.

Results

TeamGoalsBehindsTotal
Baltimore Dockers139
Philadelphia Hawks9559

And so the Baltimore Dockers men’s team closes out its first-ever regular season of operations after playing an incredible 17 matches, finishing with a record of 5 wins and 12 losses. Their next appearance will be the weekend of October 13, 2018 at the United States Australian Football League (USAFL) National Championships in Racine, Wisconsin. Matchups for championship weekend will be announced next week.