Week Two of the 2016 season featured two very close games, surprisingly highlighted by the Portland Steel and the Orlando Predators. If Week One was an indication of how this game was going to play out, then you would have thought Orlando was going to throw up 70 points on the Steel. Luckily for them (and us fans), the good Danny Southwick came to play Saturday night as it took over 59 minutes for the home town Predators to seal the victor 53-50 at the Amway Center.
The two early games Saturday night started off very slow for Arena Football standards, Cleveland was up 14-12 on Tampa Bay at the half and in this game Orlando held a slim 20-16 halftime lead. To put that into perspective, the LA KISS scored more than all four of those teams in the first half of their game and were LOSING by 14 points at the half. I don’t know if Orlando was suffering a hangover after taking it to their bitter rivals last week, or if Portland just looked as bad as they did because they were playing Arizona last week. If you look back to last season, Danny Southwick was the QB who led the KISS into San Jose to hand the SaberCats their only loss of the season. Yesterday’s performance for Southwick was eerily similar to that performance, which is why Portland held a lead in the final minute. Even without preseason number one WR for the team Nick Truesdell, Southwick tossed five touchdowns and completed 66% of his passes with almost half going to newcomer Jabin Sambrano. Sambrano finished the game with 11 catches for 73 yards and 2 scores as he looks to fill Truesdell’s shoes in the offense.
Orlando’s QB Randy Hippeard continues his case for early season MVP. Only two QB’s in the league (with at least 20 attempts) have yet to throw an interception. One is of course Nick Davila, but the other is Hippeard who has tossed 12 touchdowns and also ran for two. It’s hard to tell whether that performance is another step in his growth as he seems to get better every year, or if it’s the competition. I know I just said Portland played inspired and made a game out of it when most people didn’t, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Portland isn’t going anywhere this year and neither is Tampa Bay. I will reserve judgement on this team until next week when they travel to face the Jacksonville Sharks in the teams home opener Monday April 18th.
The silver lining for Portland here has got to be the play of Sambrano. When Truesdell was put on the Injured Reserve list it seemed Portland was going to have to turn to Jared Perry and Tom Gilson as their top two receiving threats. And while, those two players are good in their own right, Samrano has the skillset to be a dominant force in the Arena game. He is a little shorter than Perry at 5’11”, but he uses every inch of that frame to get the job done. Portland may not be go far in the playoffs, but if they can build the offense around Sambrano, they may just go into one of the juggernaut teams and surprise someone.
Looking at week three we see Portland continuing their murderer’s row of a schedule to begin the season. After starting with Arizona and Orlando, Portland gets the “pleasure” of traveling to Philadelphia to face the Soul next Sunday Afternoon on National Television (ESPN2). I’ve already mentioned it, but Orlando will travel to Jacksonville in Week three to face the Sharks in what will be Orlando first true test of the season.
Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Brandon Thompkins, Orlando
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game:
Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Brandon Thompkins, Orlando
Cutters Catch of the Game:
AFL Highlight of the Game: