It’s not easy playing away from home, especially if nearly half your team isn’t there.
On Saturday, Feb. 7, John Brown University’s Men’s Ultimate Frisbee club, Ironfist, did just that. The team went down to Fayetteville, Ark. to play two scrimmages and won by nine points against the University of Arkansas.
“Instead of going with our 19-person varsity roster, we went with 10 players, which was extremely difficult,” said Ethan Penner, one of Ironfist’s team captains. “We run offensive and defensive lines, which is the same kind of idea as the NFL. You’ve got your offensive and your defensive players. Both of those units work cohesively together, so when we only had our 10 players, we had to combine and sub in and out. It’s difficult to do; it’s hard to sustain the legs and energy for that.”
They would have to face U of A, who had nearly their full squad of 30 with them. But lacking in numbers was not Ironfist’s only problem.
“Aric Powers, Drew Taylor and I (the team captains) were thinking, ‘it could be a little rough’ because of the 20-mile-per-hour winds when we got over there,” said Penner.
But Ironfist decided to use the wind to their advantage.
“We were throwing a zone defense, which is covering a specific area instead of a man,” said Ethan Bolthouse, a freshman who plays middle and wing. “It really limits their longer throws, really making them do more short throws. It really works well in the wind.”
Such tactics paid off, as Ironfist began to pull away.
“First game, we really got up on them pretty quick, which was surprising considering we didn’t really have all of our starters there,” said Mark Belvardi, a sophomore defensive line wing. “We were up at halftime, 5-2.”
But the game was far from over. U of A came back and tied it up at eight points apiece, making the winner of the match the next team to score.
“They were about two feet away from scoring,” said Belvardi. “But we were able to get a deflection as they were trying to score. We won that game, 9-8.”
After that thrilling victory, Ironfist played another game against U of A and won by a score of 6-4.
“The second game was a bit closer the whole way,” said Belvardi. “We didn’t really get up by more than two points. That was a bit more of a chill game, because we were just playing out the rest of the time. We were all tired.”
Penner stated that it was encouraging to see the growth of the Frisbee team through the victories in Fayetteville. The last time the JBU Ultimate Frisbee team beat U of A was in 2013.
The members of Ironfist look forward to seeing Arkansas again on Feb. 21, when they come to JBU for Family Weekend.
“This is an opportunity to show the JBU community here what our club is like; that our club can compete against the U of A, who has predominantly been the best in the state up until now,” said Penner.