Aviators Look to Clinch First Playoff Birth
After two of the most important victories in franchise history, the Los Angeles Aviators (7-5) enter Saturday night’s game against the Vancouver Riptide (6-6) with their playoff fate in their own hands.
Following a treacherous day of travel that began for some in Los Angeles at 4:30 am and finally ended for most in Vancouver less than an hour before the scheduled 6:00 first pull Saturday night, the Aviators played evenly with the Riptide from start to finish. The score was tied after each of the first three quarters, but Los Angeles managed to pull off the 21-20 victory after another heart attack-inducing conclusion.
The next day in Seattle, the Aviators found themselves down 7-4 after the first quarter. Over the next two quarters, the Los Angeles defensive line played possibly the best stretch it ever has for the team. The Aviators outscored Seattle 14-4 during the second and third quarters, including starting the second half with five straight break points, to take an 18-11 lead. The fourth quarter was merely a formality in Los Angeles securing the 22-16 win. A more in-depth recap of the weekend can be found in Evan Lepler’s Tuesday Toss (http://theaudl.com/tuesdaytoss/2016/Week13).
With those two triumphs, Los Angeles extends its winning streak to 4 games, a remarkable achievement considering the franchise had never won back-to-back games before this streak started. Their 7-5 record puts them one game ahead of Vancouver, and only one victory behind Seattle (8-5), who currently hold second place in the West division. With such a tight race going on, there are multiple playoff scenarios that can play out for the Aviators:
-To qualify for the playoffs, a win in either of their last two games guarantees them a spot. Even if L.A. loses to Vancouver on Saturday, a win over San Diego in the last game gives them an 8-6 record for the season. The best Vancouver can finish is 8-6, which would tie them with the Aviators, but Los Angeles holds the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning two of the three games in the season series. A victory over the Riptide puts them two games up with one left for both teams, clinching the playoff berth.
-Los Angeles can host the playoff game against Seattle if they win both of their remaining games, finishing with a 9-5 record, and Seattle loses to Vancouver in the last week of the season, putting them at 8-6. If Seattle wins in the last week, or L.A. loses a game, the Cascades are guaranteed 2nd place and having homefield for the first playoff game because of their 2-1 season series advantage over L.A.
-The only way for Los Angeles to miss the playoffs is by losing both games to Vancouver and San Diego AND Vancouver winning in Seattle next week. That would give Seattle and Vancouver identical 8-6 records (with L.A. left looking up at 7-5), and a 2-2 season series. Seattle currently has a +11 point differential, so Vancouver would need to win by at least 11 in order to pass them for second and host the playoff game.
The Aviators are no doubt excited to return home for the completion of their regular season, with the prospect of clinching their first playoff appearance in front of their home fans. They get two opportunities to do so, but will do everything in their power to accomplish the feat this Saturday. First pull is scheduled for 7:30 at Occidental College. Tickets are available online or at the stadium.