Sheridan-Twin Bridges win State Championship
It came down to clever and efficient quaffle handling in the final minutes and a heroic catch by Sheridan-Twin Bridges seeker, Mackenzee Fabel, to allow the Fal-Thers to snatch a late win over the Ennis-Harrison Must-Cats in the Quidditch State Finals last Saturday.
No one could have predicted the outcome of the contest at any point during the action-packed match which featured precision beater attacks, speed-of-thought quaffle work and a head-to-head seeker matchup that many in the state have referred to as more exciting than the annual Brawl of the Wild.
Conditions were ideal for players and fans alike on a crisp Saturday afternoon in Virginia City, and the capacity crowd was treated to a come-from-behind Fal-Thers victory in a match that seemed to belong to the Must-Cats from the first toss-up.
“We got a solid push off right from the start, and there wasn’t any wind, so we knew that we could fly with them [the MustCats],” said Twin Bridges-Sheridan chaser and captain Hartson VanHouten, “but they were totally ready to play.”
And play they did. The MustCats chaser crew, led by All-Stater Cordell Severeid, were solidly in sync from the toss. They scored six unanswered goals in the first ten minutes of play. The majority were goals through the Fal-Ther’s center hoop.
Fal-Ther keeper, Charlie Kruer, who has only allowed an average of 9.7 goals per game this season (number one in the state), said, “I had watched so much film on those guys, and they always went short [the short hoop located on the keeper’s left-hand side]. I set up cheating a little ways to the left and, well, it didn’t work out so well. Gotta give credit to their chasers.”
Three of Ennis-Harrison’s first goals came from Luke Cima. “We knew they would be camping on the short hoop because that’s how they won in the semi’s” said Cima. The Must-Cats took advantage of this early by feinting with Severeid which opened up huge shooting lanes for Ian Swanson, Landri Paladichuck, and Jenna Snider who each scored at least five goals throughout the contest.
Snider led all chasers with seven goals on the day. “Ya, we were in sync at the start. Kruer is the best keeper in the league, but Landri, Ian, Cordell and Luke just kept feeding me the quaffle to keep him off balance,” she said, “and they were expecting Cordell to take the shot most of the time. So I had free shooting lanes.”
The Must-Cats attack seemed to be unstoppable for the first 35 minutes of play, but the Fal-Thers were not going quietly into the night. They had a few tricks of their own.
Fal-Ther beaters Matthew Kaiser and Colby Caldwell may have started slow, but thirty minutes into the match their tactics began to take a huge toll on the MustCats.
“In almost all our matches this year we focused our attention on the seeker,” said Kaiser, “but Jenkins is so quick, and his head is always on a swivel, we knew we would be wasting bludgers, so we focused on Severeid and the rest of the chasers.” In the first half hour, the Must-Cats chasers took a total of 17 bludgers due to Kaiser and Caldwell’s precision attacks.
At the 34-minute mark, Paladichuk and Swanson were both taken to the infirmary for a pepper-up potion after taking direct bludger hits. They wouldn’t return to play for nearly thirty minutes.
In their absence, the Fal-Thers made up some lost ground.
Fal-Ther chasers Axton Anderson and Desaray Tipton looked unstoppable as the handled the quaffle through heavy traffic the length of the pitch for a nifty backend shot which ignited a 5-0 run for Sheridan-Twin. “We’ve been working on that play for a while,” said Anderson, “it actually takes three of us. Desaray and I try to pass it back and forth as many times as possible up the pitch until we’re just even with the posts, and then Delilah [Puckett] sets up right in front of the keeper. Then Desaray or I take the shot from behind the goals.”
It worked flawlessly. Must-Cat keeper Jackson Nye anticipated the pass to Puckett and left the middle ring open to accept Tipton’s easy goal and 10 Fal-Ther points. Axton would score twice more, and Thomas Cromwell added a pair of goals himself to bring the score to 140-120 in favor of the Must-Cats.
Meanwhile, reserve Must-Cats chasers Bronwyn Comer, Tyler Bacon and Rosie Chater showed just why the Must-Cats have the finest chaser crew in the state. “It’s not just about scoring goals when you’re a chaser,” said Comer, “it’s also about playing defense.” The Must-Cat chasers were able to force three drops and create six steals in 15 minutes of play while Severeid and Co. were recovering.
“They really kept us in it,” said Ennis-Harrison keeper and team captain, Jackson Nye, “our chasers took a huge load off of me.”
The relentless Sheridan-Twin beater attack continued to take its toll on the Ennis-Harrison chasers as they kept marshaling in fresh substitutes. Anthony Kelley, Bailey Stockett, Dreonna Clark, and Coleman Gilman each rotated into the game at regular intervals and continued to bombard the MustCat chasers.
“It’s our goal to hit 50 hard bludgers every time we get in,” Stockett stated, “with all six of us doing that we keep our arms fresh and bludgers screaming along.” Sheridan-Twin set a state record with 785 direct bludger hits during the regular season.
A huge turning point in the contest came at one hour 16 minutes when Must-Cats seeker Jenkins appeared to have spotted the snitch and pulled into a rapid dive. Anthony Kelley and Hadley Johnson, reserve Fal-Ther chasers zig-zagged in front of him to distract him. A near collision sent Jenkins flying from his broom. “We were down 50 or so at the time,” said Johnson, “so we had to make sure he didn’t catch the snitch.”
In a controversial ruling on the pitch, the Must-Cats were awarded a penalty shot. As Jenkins was getting a minor wrist fracture mended, Eli Rosenlund came on to take the shot for Ennis-Harrison. After a successful attempt, the Must-Cats led the Fal-Thers 210- 140. Aleena Bacon, the Must-Cats’ reserve seeker covered for Jenkins while his bones were healed. “I knew I had to keep Fabel [Fal-Ther seeker] busy until Jarrett came back,” said Bacon, “so I pretended to chase a snitch and she followed me.”
So did everyone else.
With all eyes on Bacon and Fabel, the Must-Cats committed all their efforts to attempt gaining a lead of 150 points on their opponents to give them some breathing room until their all-star seeker returned.
But Kruer showed everyone why he was the stingiest keeper in the state. For 13 minutes the Ennis-Harrison chasers fired shot after shot at the Fal-Ther goal, and Kruer stopped every single one. At 1:34, a time out was called, and the teams retired to their locker rooms. The score was 210-180 in favor of the Must-Cats.
After the break, all starters for both teams, now recovered from a match which was growing more and more ferocious, took the pitch for what would be an epic conclusion to two outstanding seasons.
At the toss, the Must-Cats took possession of the quaffle. As Severeid was scorching up the pitch toward the Fal-Ther goal a bludger sent from Kaiser unseated him. The quaffle flew into the air and slammed into the golden snitch which erupted in a cascade of sparks.
Both seekers zeroed in.
At the snitch siting, Fabel and Jenkins immediately urged every ounce of speed out of their brooms, careening toward the FalTher end where the snitch seemed to be shuddering. On a collision course, Fabel pulled up first while Jenkins sneaked below her. Nearly six feet separated the two seekers, but the snitch was at Jenkins’ level. As Jenkins’ hand was nearly on the snitch, Fabel, going for broke, leapt from her broom, and falling, she snatched the snitch and landed in the sand below the Fal-Ther goal post with victory in her hand!
“I can’t believe it!” Fabel said, “I mean I’ve been so nervous to go head-to-head with Jarrett all season. And Ennis-Harrison’s chasers are phenomenal, but I guess it was just our day today!”
“That was the craziest catch I’ve ever seen,” said Jenkins “not really something you can study in film, but wow, she deserved it today.”
The acrobatic capture earned the Fal-Thers 150 points and the state quidditch title with a final score of 330-210. The 2020-21 season is at an end, but for those who were able to witness this spectacle, the memories will live on in an almost magical way.
Happy April 1 Madison County!