Aviators vs. San Diego Growlers
by Jacob Baumer
Aviators Beat Writer & Correspondent
After a gut-wrenching, fall-from-ahead loss in their season opener against the San Francisco Flamethrowers on Sunday, the Los Angeles Aviators look to bounce back against their Southern California rivals, the San Diego Growlers, in their second game of the season this Saturday, April 9.
The Growlers are coming off of their own gut-check performance in their first game, as they also played the Flamethrowers to an overtime thriller on Saturday evening, eventually falling 25-23. Both SoCal teams have lofty expectations for themselves, so neither one wants to suffer defeat this weekend and bring their record at the start of their 2016 campaign to 0-2.
This is the first of four matchups between the Aviators and Growlers this season. They met five times last year, with San Diego claiming victory in three of them.
The Aviators’ defense is already in midseason form, compiling double-digit blocks spread out over a dozen players. Rookies Trevor Smith and Andrew Kohl each had two blocks in their first professional action. Jeff Silverman wiped away two shots into the end zone, and Zac Schakner and Bryan Nguyen both had highlight-worthy full extension layouts. Defensive pressure is what puts the Aviators in position to win, but it is the offense that needs to step up in order to secure victory. Having over thirty turnovers in a game as Los Angeles did is a recipe for disaster. Dumps and swing passes were getting caught up in the air and easily defended. A handful of hucks became true 50/50 passes as they hung long enough for half of the players on the field to be in position to make a play. Cutters were routinely gassed due to the multitude of marathon points. As adept as the defensive-line offense is at scoring off of their own turnovers, the offense has to offer support, holding on their own possessions with much more regularity.
San Diego has undergone significant roster changes over the offseason, losing Josh Ackely, Kurt Gibson, Nick Lance, Jimmy Mickle. What the Growlers lack in celebrity, they seem to have made up for, at least for their first game, in chemistry. With a roster now full of players mostly from the same area who play together often, their rhythm on the field will likely improve. The Aviators must keep an eye on the most prominent Growlers, such as Dominic Leggio, Jesse Cohen, Cody Kirkland, Josh Nickerson, Steven Milardovich, and Will Griffin as the players who make the team click.
In the three losses to the Growlers last season, the spreads were by 1 point, 1 point, and 4 points. In the two wins, the margins were 2 points and 5 points. This season should prove to be equally contested games. Saturday should be the first entry in the win column for Los Angeles, likely by a two- or three-goal margin.
First pull is at 7:30 pm. And it’s College Night, so support your alma mater and enjoy the fun, which will surely be starting early and going through the night! See you at Occidental College. Tickets are available online and at the box office.