It just may have proven to be too good to be true Friday night for the Ohio Machine.
Coming off a momentum-shifting win against the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the defending champions of Major League Lacrosse, just a week before, the then 2-3 Machine looked at the Boston Cannons (then 2-3) with eager anticipation, as a win would push them past the Cannons in the standings to gain 5th place outright in the MLL. With only the top four teams making the playoffs, 5th place would be prime position for the young Machine at mid-season. Unfortunately, though, the team will have to settle for 6th place for the time being. After overcoming many in-game miscues with steady offense and spurts of lockdown defense, the Machine fell to the Boston Cannons by a score of 17-16.
Although 17 goals were allotted to the opponent, the atmosphere at the start of the match was one of domination and speed for the Machine. Kyle Harrison started the scoring attack for the Machine five minutes into the game, and, after a few notable saves by goalie Scott Rodgers, defensiveman Greg Bice followed up with an unlikely and unassisted 2 point goal from the center of the field. Though, as would be the story of the night, the Cannons answered the call sneakily and unexpectedly. Paul Rabil, Stephen Berger, and Martin Bowes accounted for three Cannon goals in three minutes. After a quick answer by Machine rookie Tom Schreiber, which made the score 4-3, the Cannons answered with a last minute goal by Stephen Berger, knotting the teams up at four.
This deadlock would continue at a more rapid pace as twelve goals were scored between the two teams in the second quarter. Although this may be considered an offensive breakout for the young Machine, who totaled nine goals by the end of the half, the game more consisted of a painful shift in momentum and power from the Machine to the visiting Boston Cannons. The Machine was on the end of their rope in the middle of the second quarter, when three Cannon goals were scored in rapid succession (Owen Blye, Kevin Buchanon, Will Manny) to make for a three-goal Machine deficit.
“The way the MLL games are going, you see a lot of runs, where teams will score a lot and won’t score a lot,” explained Goalie Brian Phipps. “Coach always tells us to handle the runs as best we can. They got a little bit ahead of us in the second quarter, unfortunately…”
Though, the Machine finished the half with a run of their own, totaling two last-minute goals by Logan Schuss and Marcus Hollman. Unfortunately, as was the story of the whole night, Cannons’ Brent Adams scored a controversial last-second shot that put the Cannons up by two points at halftime, and stopped the surging Machine.
Going into the third quarter, the Machine looked to change the tide of Cannon control. The Machine crawled back from a two-point deficit within the quarter to tie with the Cannons at 12-12. Looking more poised and more controlled, the Machine defense locked down the opponent, allowing just two goals in the quarter, a vast contrast to the seven goals scored against them just a quarter before.
Coach Bear Davis was pleased with the defensive lockdown in the third quarter. “I don’t know if it comes down to one particular thing. I don’t know if it was as much of what I said as it was that we knew we weren’t playing very well and that we had to do something different. The guys tightened up in the second half.”
Some would argue, though, that the two goals allotted by the Cannons in the third quarter should really just be one. Coming shortly after the tying goal by Machine midfielder Kyle Harrison, a diving goal by Cannon Kevin Buchanon was called off on a referee ruling that he was inside the goalie circle. Immediately, a challenge flag was thrown by the Cannons, and amid waiting a considerable amount of time for the ruling, Machine fans could increasingly realize what a pivotal moment that was in the game. The Machine just clawed their way back to putting both of the teams even on the scoreboard, and this call could either put them behind again or work in their favor for once in the night. A favorable ruling may have just been able to turn the tide completely for the fighting Machine.
Instead, in a decision that was characteristic of the status-quo of the night, the play was overturned by the referees and ruled a goal, putting the Cannons up 13-12. Shortly after,
Machine midfielder Logan Schuss tied the game up at thirteen-all going into the fourth quarter. Though, one could only imagine the atmosphere in Selby Stadium if the Machine were to finally break through the plateau that was too large for them the whole night with a one goal lead going into the fourth quarter. Instead, the teams remained deadlocked headed into the “final countdown”.
The fourth quarter started with a bang, as Machine attackman Steele Stanwick put the Machine up by one just eight seconds into the quarter. Though, in another favorable action for the Cannons, rookie Tom Schrieber received a technical foul for holding just a few minutes later, which gave the Cannons a thirty-second power play. It wouldn’t be the power play that proved fatal, but on the ensuing drive from the Cannons, Will Manny scored his fourth goal of the night to tie the game yet again. The grudge match continued as Kyle Harrison answered with a goal, which was immediately followed by a Cannon goal by Paul Rabil after an embarrassing turnover by the Machine. Yet again, another pair of goals were speedily scored (in total) to knot the score at sixteen heading into the last two minutes.
Re-emphasizing the overwhelming theme of Cannon comeback and peskiness for the Machine, Cannon attackman Ryan Boyle put the seal on a Cannon win with a gritty goal coming with only 1:12 left in the match.
So, the Machine, not able to make up for personal miscues and offensive attacks by the Boston Cannons, fought to the death with a 17-16 final score.
Midfielder Peter Baum pointed to the teams’ intensity as a reason for the falter. “As a team, in general, we’re not a real ‘rah-rah’ bunch, which is good — you don’t get to high and you don’t get to low. But sometimes, we’ve got to ramp it up a bit, and I don’t think it was necessarily there for the entire game. But, we were there at the end and certainly had a shot to do it, and that’s all you can ask for.”
When asked how the team can clear their heads and prepare for the next game, Coach Bear Davis responded bluntly, “We don’t have a choice.”
Amidst it being Scout Night (presented by the Simon Kenton Council) at Selby Stadium, a disappointed fan should personally be reassured that all was not lost last night considering the hope of the Machine’s success. Not only did the team itself show various improvements within the game, but also the community of 4,335 eager, spry spectators inside Selby Stadium revealed extreme youth and vigor not seen in many other places. With smiles and laughter spread across families, dates, Boy Scouts, and many other cliques that meshed into a memorable and unique collage of a fan base, the anticipation and excitement was irreplaceably evident inside the stadium. “The Best Day of My Life” was blaring through the speakers, smiles were contagious, and laughter and hospitality filled the press box. As well, the Machine only reflected the fans’ youth… Or maybe the fans were matching the Machines’ example. Passion and vigor were evident on the field throughout the night and offensive fireworks propelled the young team to heights seen only a few times in the teams’ history. Although the Machine committed too many mistakes for a win, and the opposite side of Selby Stadium still sits barren, last nights’ game was evidence that the Ohio Machine is on the rise, and Delaware is “oiling up” at a rapid rate.
The Machine return to action next Saturday, June 14th, when they will battle the Rochester Rattlers at Selby Stadium.