From the first point in the Regional finals on Sunday, it was easy to tell that things were just a little bit different for Chain Lightning in this year’s UPA Series. The team from Atlanta brought home its first Regional victory in three years with a 15-10 over Texas’ Doublewide.
After Doublewide caught the opening pull it was only a matter of throws before Chain’s Mark Poole (our former summer league captain) sold out for a layout block on a breakmark throw. Poole had to take an injury after his mark landed on him but his replacement, AJ Tiarsmith, would find John “Kid” Hammond in the back of the end zone with a hammer.
Though Tiarsmith’s hammer was anything but advised, it was clear that Chain now had, not only the mentality, but also the talent to execute something that it hadn’t done in three years, win the South Region.
“Some of (Chain’s success) is talent,” Chain captain Rob Barrett said. “We have the physical talent and ability to go a long way.”
Where Chain had failed in past years, it would succeed this year. That being said, Doublewide would not go quietly and quickly scored to Rory Orloff after easily marching the disc up the force side of the field.
However, that talent that Barrett spoke of would rear its powerful, fast and unmarkable head in the form of Chain’s Josh Ziperstein. Ziperstein would set up Chain’s next score by bringing down a huck and dumping to Asa Wilson before making the score cut himself. Though the score would fluctuate back and forth, even including Doublewide earning its break back and taking the lead, Ziperstein was ever present for Chain, by the time the score had reached 5-6 in favor of Doublewide, Ziperstein had caught three goals himself and threw another.
“Aside from the goals he threw or caught, he probably had four or five sixty yard gainers throughout the course of the game,” Barrett said. “I know that Josh was frustrated after last year, like we all were, but I could tell, listening to him talk, that he had more focus than usual and I think it was reflected in his play. He played like one of the short list players in the game and that’s what that looks like.”
Doublewide was riding on the coattails of captain Kiran Thomas, who beat Chain defenders to the endzone left and right until had earned its break back from the first point and tied the score at 6 goals a piece.
At that point, Chain made a defensive adjustment and called on the speedy Joel Wooten to mark Thomas. Wooten, who has speed to match Thomas’ and some length over the Doublewide star pulled out a block in the endzone after Chain lost the mark and allowed an easy break huck.
Chain rookie Peter Dempsey laid out for a huck near the endzone and Rob White brought down the score to take a 7-6 lead and, though Jeff Loskorn would catch a goal to tie the game at 7-7, it was clear that Chain wasn’t going to look back.
After college teammates Dylan Tunnell and Mark Greg Swanson hooked up for the score to take half for Chain 8-7, would score two straight, one on offense to Ziperstein and another on D from Poole to White over Loskorn in the endzone for a break to put the score at 10-8 in favor of Chain Lightning.
The two teams would trade to 11-9 and Chain would earn another break but it all but looked over after Chain’s Jason Simpson made up for a turfed throw earlier in the game by coming up with a block in the air. That turned into Chain’s all lefty line working Doublewide’s handler defense as Chain rookie Robert Runner and Jonathan “Frito” Monforti found the endzone after working the disc between themselves for several throws.
Doublewide would find the endzone one more time but Frito would finish off Doublewide by hucking the disc to Russell Snow, who at 5’9″ skied for the disc and found a teammate in the endzone to finish the Texas team off, 15-10.
After the game Doublewide captain Max Cook was impressed with his Regional rival’s play.
“Chain’s a tough team, Chain’s an amazing team,” Cook said. “They have five or six guys that can burn you deep and that’s their game. Put your best defender on one and another is going to get you. That’s their game and we know that’s their game but you try to shut that down and it’s difficult.”
While Cook may be certain of Chain’s style, along with most of the rest of the field at Nationals, as he says, it is difficult to stop. Chain’s offense went the entire Regional final and turned the disc only twice. For a team that plans to peak in a month, that is an impressive number to say the least.
It was a long time coming for several of Chain’s players, who were thrilled to finally take home the Regional crown in front of the home crowd.
“As far as today, we’re really happy,” Barrett said. “We cared, maybe more, you always care, you always want to win but we may have cared a little bit more. If you want to win it all, you gotta get used to playing well along the way.”