Michigan Outclasses Fort Wayne, 27-9

posted Oct 22, 2012, 7:48 AM by Karl Seibert   [ updated Oct 29, 2012, 12:30 PM ]
20 October, 2012     
McMillen Park   
Fort Wayne, Indiana  

Michigan traveled to Fort Wayne knowing that a loss would be curtains for their playoff hopes.  It was a grind, but the Ann Arbor men pulled away at the end, winning 27-9.  The boys sputtered through the first half, unable to string together phases and unable to effectively manage the inconsistency of referee Clint Wall, a Fort Wayne club member.  Michigan were scoreless almost all of the first half, but a try just before the whistle put them on the board, 5-6.  The first 20 minutes of the second half were a defensive standoff, but once rookie Alex Aizenman scored 63 minutes in, the boys in maize and blue never trailed.

On a rather windy day, captain and flyhalf Aaron Dodd mistakenly chose to play into the wind.  Fort Wayne kicked off, but quickly regained possession, playing like a 15-car freight train.  A try seemed inevitable, but the one dimensional nature of the Indiana franchise made defending it only a matter of not missing tackles. 

A held up try 9 minutes into the match could have given Fort Wayne the momentum they needed, but Michigan proved too desperate.  Man-of-the-match No. 8 Avi Giladi forced a turnover to get Michigan out of trouble, but Fort Wayne commanded territory, eventually gaining a kickable penalty at 25 minutes.  The penalty was hardly a rarity; it was already Michigan's fifth.  0-3 to Fort Wayne.

Referee Wall's interpretation of the breakdown was akin to a bipolar sheriff in the Wild West; at times bizarre behavior such as coming from the side and picking up the ball was tolerated, other times it was penalized with extreme prejudice.  Scratching their heads, Michigan conceded another costly penalty in front of the posts at 27 minutes.  0-6.

Michigan picked up steam around a half hour into the match, catching Fort Wayne napping with half-breaks turned whole-breaks, and Dodd's fierce determination swung the territory and possession stats Ann Arbor's way.  A clever offload to a barreling Mike Przybylek put Michigan just one point down, 5-6, 36 minutes into the match.

They'd head to the shed with that scoreline, encouraged that, though they were being put under pressure, their defense stood strong.

Dodd kicked off the second half, which would be the only touch on the ball Michigan would have for quite some time. 

Fort Wayne missed a kick at goal 54 minutes in, but got another chance and capitalized just two minutes later.  5-9, Fort Wayne.

The slugfest continued, but Michigan, who've allowed the fewest points of any team in the league this season, held on.  The Michigan sideline was increasingly frustrated by the referee, and increasingly vocal.  Touch judge Tom Stulberg, who'd been replaced on the field by Pete Mulhearn, engaged Wall with a rather forceful recommendation that several Fort Wayne players were offside at a ruck.  While distracted, Wall nearly missed Michigan's first try of the half. 

Michigan had flung the ball across-field to an eager Alex Aizenman, whose dangerous running carried him over the goal line.  It seemed likely that Wall would call back the score, having been rudely interrupted by Stulberg, but gave the visitors their five points.  Dodd would miss the conversion, but Michigan led for the first time in the match, 10-9, 63 minutes in.

Continuity returned to the Ann Arbor men, and some excellently constructed phases put them inside Fort Wayne's 22.  Aware that the home side had fairly ineffective weak side defense, Dodd called for the ball just feet away from the touchline.  He threw his body forward, re-enacting hooker Jeff Burke's slam dunk try from last week.

Again, the try went unconverted, and 15-9 with 10 minutes on the clock gave the visitors little breathing room.

Dodd, full of spit and vinegar, marshalled the team with great confidence, sensing that the Fort Wayne team was vulnerable.  He kicked high, sending the ball just over Fort Wayne's goal line.  What should have been an easily gathered kick turned horrific for the home team as several Fort Wayne players stood close as Michigan center Jamie Hickey pounced on five points, and Michigan's bonus point try. 20-9 with 7 minutes left had Michigan feeling comfortable.

Hanging on to possession for the rest of the game, Michigan fabricated several chances, with excellent running lines.  Eventually, at full time, Hickey burst through a gap.  In a completely unprecedented and unexpected move, he passed to scrumhalf Davy Hamilton, who scored under the posts.  Hamilton did well to support, but the pass was tantamount to Scrooge's buying Bob Cratchit the prize Christmas turkey.  Hamilton does not have any frail or crippled children.

Dodd was able to convert this try, his first successful kick of the day.

Wall blew the whistle, 27-9 to Michigan.

Michigan is tied with Tri-Cities for second place in the division; the two face off this Saturday in Midland.  The winner of the match will take the second playoff spot.  Kalamazoo has wrapped up first place.

Tries: Przybylek, Aizenman, Dodd, Hickey, Hamilton
Conv: Dodd
Pen: -
Drop: -

15 Alex Aizenman
14 Andy Schwarzkopf
13 Charlie Berklich
12 Jamie Hickey
11 Tom Stulberg (Mulhearn, 40', Eboda, 71')
10 Aaron Dodd
9 Davy Hamilton
8 Avi Giladi
7 Mike Przybylek (Aravapalli, 75')
6 Hany Shehata
5 Matt Daniel
4 Matt Frech
3 Matt Forsyth (Anderson, 40')
2 Ted Pixley (Burke, 48')
1 Doug Chapman

16 Brian Zimmer
17 Pete Mulhearn
18 Rob Anderson
19 Tobi Eboda
20 Jeff Burke
21 Naveen Aravapalli
22 Karl Seibert