Tigers v. Houston Lonestars, Round 1

On Saturday, April 14th, the Tigers boarded the team bus, which sorely needs a nickname, and headed down I-10 to Houston for the first real hit-out of the 2012 season.

Five hours later, their senses dulled by Guisseppe Montanaro’s collection of ’90s rock, the nine Tigers stepped out to face a Lonestars squad brimming with numbers and confidence.

Baton Rouge picked up a few Houston players to play ten-a-side with subs and the match was underway. After winning the opening tap, the Lonestars immediately bombed the ball long to their tall timber, Kevin Vaden, who marked and goaled.

It was a pattern the rest of the match would follow.

After an opening barrage, the Tigers began to get their feet under them and started finding a bit more of the footy.  But with a constantly rotating Houston midfield getting first use of the ball and kicking to the entrenched Big Kev, the going was rough.

But not all was bleak for Baton Rouge.

Once he shook off his birthday hangover, Irish James Morris proved to be a force around the ground, constantly breaking lines with his deceptive agility and sending the ball into the Tigers’ forward 50.

He even had the match highlight with a brilliant run and shot on goal in the second half.  It would’ve been better if he hadn’t been attacking his own goal and recording a behind for the Lonestars, but the effort wasn’t lacking.

The Tigers also blooded Kool Keith Fleniken who acquitted himself well on the field and at the pub afterwards.

Veteran Jeff “Fidel” Phillips brought his hobo beard, massive turning radius, and new-found stamina to the field.  He even reluctantly had an extended run in the midfield.

Typical Tigers’ forward Jeff Horn enjoyed some time in foreign place–the backline–but used his marking skills to help spur a Tigers run in the fourth quarter playing as a loose defender.

New Orleans resident Jason Wynn-Smith had the toughest assignment of the day, as he spent most of the afternoon on Big Kev but certainly spoiled a few goals for the massive forward.

Word’s gotten out about Mean Joe Roy, and the ref paid him extra attention, but that didn’t stop his hard-charging ways.

Despite being a combined 184 years old, Roberto Montanaro and Neil Stebbing put the “Aussie” in Baton Rouge Aussie Rules during the trip. Robbo provided a scrap in the ruck and for a few glorious minutes Stebbing turned back the clock and burned up the middle of the ground–until the ref whistled full-time.

Player/coach Tyler Smith also played and managed to not injure himself.

Despite being under the pump most of the match, the Tigers ended on a strong note by winning the fourth quarter.  After that, it was all cold beer and beautiful women.

Houston: 21.7.137
Tigers: 6.4.40

Tigers Travel to Houston, Return with Win #3

Back on June 5th, the boys from Baton Rouge took one of their biggest traveling groups ever west on the I-10 for the third leg of their season series with the Houston Lonestars.

Conditions on the AC-less team bus were good for the majority of the trip, until Houston’s ugly traffic snarl reared its head and the Tigers got a light baking while slowly navigating construction. Conditions at the field weren’t much better than in the bus as an unrelenting sun poured down on Houston’s bite-sized pitch.
The small field and adjusted quarter lengths did help prevent any heat illnesses from striking players down on the afternoon. As usual, gunfire from the three surrounding firing ranges providing the atmosphere.

With each team fielding nearly 20 players and therefore enough subs to keep energy from flagging too much, the Tigers and Lonestars locked into a spirited affair.

Houston’s big ruckman displayed his continuing improvement by winning the majority of the hit-outs. While he provided good delivery to his on-ballers, the weight of the Tigers’ relative experience across the field was revealed as they collected most of the hard possessions and were able to find outlets quickly.

For the first time this season, Baton Rouge got a balanced contribution across the field. It showed on the scorecard with seven different Tigers notching goals. Despite passages of skanky play, the Tigers showed an improved ability to be patient and hit targets with kicking.

Big Daz Duhnke provided a compelling target at center half forward, using his height to mark over the smaller opposition and booting three to lead the scoring for the Old Blue and Gold. Jeff Horn had a quiet day in recording a solitary goal while his partner at full forward, Jeff “Peepers” Phillips played his best game of the season and put two between the big sticks.

Unfortunately, the Tigers experienced deja vu with their goal-kicking accuracy. Reminiscent to their first encounter with the Lonestars this season, Baton Rouge peppered the goal but turned in an awful conversion rate of 13 goals from 33 scoring shots.

Despite their scoring woes, the Tigers turned in good performances across the board, notably Duhnke and captain Kenny “Dragon Junior” DeLucca. Mickey Kleinhenz, who now leads the UsFootyNews.com MVP board, managed a quiet-ish but effective Best On Ground display.

For the Lonestars, coach Dan Holwerda proved irresistible in reeling in mark after mark, many of them contested, but he too was afflicted by sour boots in gathering more behinds than goals.

These two teams meet again this weekend, on June 19th at Clark Park in Baton Rouge for their fourth and final meeting of the season before making the stretch run together at Nationals.

Final score (accuracy unknown):
BR 13.20 (108) defeats Houston 5.10 (40)

Duhnke 3, Peepers 2, Ruben Nambo 2, Aaron LaRose 2, James “Irish” Morris 2, Kleinhenz, Horn

Baton Rouge Best:

Injuries: Dentinger (hamstring)
Reports: none

Tigers Score First Home Victory

Captain Taylor "Flea" Braud attempts a screamer.

Heat index: 95 degrees.  Breeze: light.  Sun: unfiltered and scorching.  The grounds: large and fast.  The sides: due to no-shows and injuries, just 15-a-side.  The subs: one, for Baton Rouge.

Not the best conditions for a full-length footy match, but this past Saturday in Baton Rouge, the Tigers and the Houston Lonestars duked it out in the second of their four-match series this season.  Umpire Chris Liddy delayed the start of the match for a few minutes to wait for more players to appear.  When none did, the Tigers dealt Houston promising recruit Kenny Delucca along with Jonathon Morrill and recent LSU grad Finky Finkelstein to even the sides.

Despite a pre-match demand to tear the game from Houston and pile it on early, it was the Lonestars that grabbed the match by the balls in the opening minutes and put up two quick goals before the Tigers could snap their lackadaisical funk.  Houston’s redwood-like ruckman controlled the taps and the Lonestar rovers, led by coach Dan Holwerda, led the charge deep into Tiger territory.

A quick position change saw Baton Rouge coach Tyler Smith swap with club president Roberto Montanaro.  With Smith’s mobility now in the half-back lines, and Montanaro’s hard physicality putting a charge in the half-forward line, the Tigers started to get a grip on the match.

Perennial match-winner Mickey Kleinhenz settled the midfielders, a fast and skilled unit featuring Daz Dunhke and Nate Lane roving along with captain Flea Braud and Aaron “I love Lost” LaRose on the wings, and the Scales of Victory quickly tipped back in Baton Rouge’s favor and stayed there.

A collision on the half-forward line between Montanaro, Lindy Dentinger, and Houston’s tough-nut half-back Matt Stevens saw the Lonestar stalwart leave the field with a skull-revealing gash.  Although he would return later, bandaged-up and game for more action, Houston lost two other players to injury almost simultaneously and their fast start disappeared under the Tigers’ onslaught.

Led by center halfback Irish James Morris, the Tigers backlines featuring Dozer Cantrelle, Pele Bruckner, Smith, and a recuperating James Kavanaugh repelled nearly all of Houston’s forays toward goal.  After drawing first and second blood, the Lonestars would be stuck at two goals for the remainder of the match–a long 75 minutes.

But the key to match for the Tigers was their midfield play, particularly along the wings.  Sensing favorable match-ups, LaRose and Braud demanded the ball and began a relentless assault on Houston’s defense from both sides.

In typical Tiger fashion, the midfield chipped in a few goals with Duhnke, LaRose, and Kleinhenz (two goals) peppering the big posts.

The best revelation of the match was the play of Baton Rouge’s forwards.  Half-forward Joe Roy and full-forward Jeff Horn rewarded the coach’s faith in their offensive abilities by booting identical 4.2’s on the day.  Roy, fresh from a stint in the desert (the half-back line), lined up his booming kick from 40 meters and earned some long-distance majors.  Horn, working mainly in the goal square, showed strong hands and some smooth maneuvers to pick up his haul.

With Montanaro and Dentinger showing their typical hardness at the ball, Peepers Phillips selflessly dragging his defender out of play to free space for his fellow hot forwards, and Mason Adams providing drive across the ground, the Tigers comprehensively outplayed their counterparts.

As the day wore on, with the match in-hand, the Tigers softened a bit and the hard-working Houston quartet of Holwerda, Justin Vaughn, Sean Whitehouse, and Whitney Altenhoff began to get traction in the match.  Luckily the shrill shriek of the final whistle pierced the smothering air and the Tigers were able to sing the club song after putting up 16 unanswered goals.

This is the first match since 2006 that the Tigers have scored 100+.
Mickey Kleinhenz’s BOG performance puts him atop the usfootynews.com MVP list.
Jeff Horn’s season tally of 6 goals puts him equal-third on the usfootynews.com Goalkickers list.

Baton Rouge – 16.13 (109)
Houston – 2.3 (15)

3 – Kleinhenz
2 – Braud, LaRose
1 – Horn, Roy, Morris

Horn 4, Roy 4, Kleinhenz 2, Cantrelle 2, Duhnke, Kavanaugh, Detinger, LaRose

Tigers vs. Crows: A Mother’s Day Extravaganza

On Saturday, May 8th, the Tigers took on the Austin Crows in a match that would continue to reveal the strength and the flaws in this season’s Baton Rouge side.

The sun burned off some early cloud cover and some soccer tots were booted off their fields for the 1pm start time.  With a light breeze, temps in the low 80s, and a fast, firm ground, the scene was set for a good afternoon of football.

With early season standout Minnesota James Kavanaugh sidelined with a torn calf muscle and rookie ruckman Daz Duhnke carrying a niggling shoulder injury into the match, the Tigers opted to employ a conservative ruck strategy to compliment their defense-minded structure.  Playing 16s instead of the full 18s, the Tigers keep a complete fullback and halfback line at the expense of their forwards.

To further mix up their forward structure, the Tigers used first-gamer Lindy Dentinger in a hybrid half-forward/midfield role to accentuate his greatest skills: tackling and crumbing.

The lineup was built to pressure the Crows’ offensive thrusts while allowing the Tigers’ streaming defenders to use their run and carry to bring the ball to the forward 50.  While lacking a power forward this season, the Tigers have some key scrappy small forwards in Peepers Phillips, Rugby Ray Chastain, and Jeff Horn.

Once referee (and occasional Tiger) Nathan Lane tossed the ball up to start the match, the Tigers’ pre-game strategy seemed to pay off.  Dentinger cleaned up some messy ground-level play and kicked Baton Rouge’s first goal, putting a charge in the home side.

Veteran Bo Hilty rucked valiantly against a taller, stronger Austin big man, and early in the match the Tigers’ defensive-minded on-ball play of Duhnke, Mickey Kleinhenz, and Tyler Smith managed to win the majority of the contested ball.

Ageless wonder Neil Stebbing directed the defense from the fullback position and the running power of streaming defenders Irish James Morris and Aaron LaRose had an immediate impact as they cut through the Crows lines.

But while the aggressiveness of the Tigers defense provided an immediate counter-attack, it also allowed the Crows to play the ball over the top and score some easy goals.

Once the game settled into a rhythm, the Crows’ superior off-the-ball movement also gave the Tigers trouble.  With the Tigers’ midfield and half-backs often neglecting positioning to apply forward pressure, Austin was allowed to control the middle of the ground and quickly re-distribute the ball into their forward line on the rebound.

Despite making halftime corrections, the Tigers inexperience revealed itself again as Austin continued to use savvy passing to repeatedly surge into the Baton Rouge half.  Despite the hard-running brilliance of Kleinhenz, who repeatedly hauled in contested marks and tackled ferociously, and the dogged determination of huge on-baller Duhnke, Austin’s midfield experience won the day. As the Crows adapted their ruck strategy, they began winning the majority of the clearances and got clean delivery to their frontlines.

But that’s not to say the Tigers didn’t have their moments of excitement.

Jeff Horn, one of the Tigers’ most improved players, bagged two goals.  Despite seeing less of the ball in the second half, Dentinger tackled hard like the good old country boy he is.  Mason Suri Adams kicked a beautiful running goal from 35 meters out at an angle.  Taylor Flea Braud battled through 2 cracked ribs to play his most physical and consistent game of footy yet.  Although he lost at least one mark to his diamond-hard pectorals, Peepers Phillips led hard and played smart footy.

At the end of the day, Austin prevailed 14.11 (95) to 6.4 (40).

As the Tigers are in the midst of rebuilding with a largely inexperienced side, they used this game as a measuring stick to determine their progress toward the ultimate goal of competing strongly at nationals.  Progress is definitely being made as new players are picking up skills and learning how to fit into the side.  Veteran players are returning to the team and morale is high.

And although the Tigers conceded defeat to the Crows, who were simply better on the day, they conducted themselves with class on and off the field.  Despite facing a lopsided scoreboard in the second half, the boys from Baton Rouge played hard and ran their guts out to the final whistle.

The Tigers will take on newcomers Houston in three consecutive matches starting this Saturday, May 22 at 1pm at Clark Park in Baton Rouge.

Final Score: Austin 14.11 (95) to Baton Rouge 6.4 (40)

Best: Mickey Kleinhenz, Lindy Dentinger, James Morris, Daz Duhnke, Jeff Horn.

Goals: Horn (2), Kleinhenz, Dentinger, Taylor Braud, Mason Adams

Injuries: Neil Stebbing (foot)

Reports: None

Crawfish Cup Tourney pt. II

After falling to the Magpies in the curtain-raiser of the Crawfish Cup tourney, the Tigers looked to recoup while Austin played Dallas in a rematch of last season’s Division 3 grand final.  In that match, the wind remained a major factor, although the ‘Pies managed to scored the only goal of the day against the stiff breeze.

But the Magpies class won out again and the Tigers looked to take advantage of a battle-weary Austin side.

Unfortunately, the coin flip landed in favor of the Crows and they started with the 5-goal wind.  The rucks and midfielders steadied a bit for the Tigers after getting handled in the first match, but the god-damned wind smothered clearances, kick-outs, and any ball traveling more than 10 feet off the ground seemed to be inevitably buffeted back into the hands of the Crows.

The Tiger backlines played reasonably well despite giving up 11 scoring shots to Austin.  For their part, the Crows were only able to take 2 goals for their efforts and headed into the break ahead only 2.9 (21) to 0.0 (0).

And here the wind would die down a bit, leaving Baton Rouge with a bit less of an edge than Mother Nature had given all day.  The Tigers clawed back into the match, stringing together some clean passages of play while suppressing the Crows’ forward drive.  But the combined the combined Houston/BR squad revealed no true match winners despite the relentless work of Minnesota Kavanaugh across the midfield, some more contested ball winning from Justin Vaughn and occasional spots of brilliance from Stebbing, Holwerda, and Daz Duhnke among others.

In the end, the Tigers would spend almost all of the second half in front of goal but were left wanting, managing 1.3 (9) on the day.

Best: Kavanaugh, Justin Vaughn, Holwerda.