Atlanta Kookaburras grab last minute win
The challenge was clear when the Kookaburras came home with a 6 goal final quarter in Baton Rouge on September 19. The Baton Rouge Tigers had proved they were a force at home when they flogged the Kangaroos by 68 points in June. “It’s simple mass,” as former Nashville coach Marty Thompson would say.
A limited squad of Kangaroos made the trip to Atlanta, building a team around camaraderie and sportsmanship. The Kangaroos added to their pre-game routing by greeting their hosts with a small gift, setting the scene for a relatively convivial game considering the long-standing rivalry between Kookaburras and Kangaroos. Nonetheless, the game was hard fought with intense effort by both teams.
The Kangaroos took an early lead with center Tim “Squirrel” Fulwider kicking his tenth goal of the season. The players around the ball, James “JD” Duty, Maurice Howell, Mischa Nemeth and Fulwider were effective early, with Duty soon earning a very savvy free kick that he guided between the big sticks.
Team captain Luke Nemeth started at forward pocket, which soon produced results. With a great shepherd by David Harris, Nemeth extended the Kangaroos lead to 9 points. Full forward Jesse Wells played great wet weather football to produce the Kangaroos fourth goal, and the Roos were leading 4.1 (25) to an inaccurate Atlanta 1.5 (11) at the first break.
Atlanta came back strong in the second quarter. Only Nemeth could add to the major scores for Nashville, an easy shot as reward for a solid tackle in the goal square. Atlanta led 5.7 (37) over Nashville 5.4 (34) at half time, and continued their purple patch into the third quarter.
Duane Mathes started the second half in a tagging role, but attacked from half back flank with an exciting run down the left wing, bringing the ball within scoring range. Duty gathered the ball and kicked towards full forward, where Wells had a simple shot for his second goal. That was the only major score by the Nashville Kangaroos for the fourth quarter, and Atlanta added another couple of goals to their lead.
Scoring in the final quarter began with an inspiring left foot snap shot for goal by Maurice Howell. A selfless goal by Gilberto Ortiz further reduced the deficit - Ortiz had passed to Nemeth, who passed back to Ortiz for the shot! Atlanta responded with a goal, but Ortiz scored his second goal of the match, benefiting this time from a handpass from Wells. Assisted by a solid shepherd from Eric Toepfer, a goal by Nemeth from long range at last returned the lead to the Kangaroos. Another goal by Duty looked to be the sealer with only minutes remaining, but two quick goals by Atlanta put them two points up just before the final whistle.
Atlanta Kookaburras 11.11 (77)
Nashville Kangaroos 11.9 (75)
Goals: Luke Nemeth 3, James Duty 2, Gilberto Ortiz 2, Jesse Wells 2, Tim Fulwider, Maurice Howell.
The Nashville Kangaroos finish the regular season 6-4 and now look forward to the announcement of USAFL Nationals seeding on Thursday, October 1st, followed by the USAFL National Championship Tournament in Austin on the weekend of October 17th-18th.