Raising the Banner

by Bee Jay Glosson

Saturday night football in D.C. can only mean one thing, time to raise the banner. In front of a crowd of more than 8,000,  the defending champions of Arena Bowl 31, the Washington Valor, gave the fans exactly what they wanted and needed.  With a pre-game ceremony that saw the home team raise a championship banner into the rafters, celebrating what is and most likely always will be, the most improbable championship team in Arena history, the Valor gave the crowd everything it had.

With the Atlantic City Blackjacks in town, along with a couple former Valor players and coaches including QB Warren Smith Jr. and assistant head coach Shane Stafford, raising the banner and winning seemed to be a unspoken priority.  The emotion of the ceremony carried over into the game as the Valor scored on their first drive and continued to score on every drive of the game except 1.  If you still haven’t jumped on a MVP train, Arvell Nelson is the train you have been waiting on. 

With 17 total touchdowns in 3 games, 5 of those being rushing touchdowns, Arvell Nelson leads the league in rushing and passing yards and also total touchdowns.  He lead the Valor to 6 touchdown drives in 7 tries and no interceptions in the contest against the visiting Blackjacks. The Blackjacks tried to keep the game close the entire way but in the end, the Valor proved to be too much as they took the lead early in the first half and never gave it back for the rest of the game.

When asked about prior weeks mishaps, head coach Benji Mcdowell said ” I think we have gotten past that and I believe we are on the path to being a better team.”  In which, is refreshing after the amount of turnovers on downs and interceptions (6) the Valor have given up inside the 7 yard line this year. Wide receiver Reggie Gray when interviewed stated that “the sky is the limit for this offense!”

Was the game a blowout? No. Was the game a close contest? Yes. The lead never stretched more than 14 and stayed within 7 points most of the game, making for a nail biting experience for the hometown fans as they cheered their beloved Valor on to a home opening win.  Randy Hippeard, Atlantic City’s quarterback, took his squad to the endzone 5 times in the game, but that wasn’t enough to close the gap. 

Arvell Nelson when asked about his MVP tempo on the year stated “I don’t think about stuff like that, I just do the little things needed to win and if the awards come at the end of the year, then I did my job.”  He may not be thinking about the awards but he is certainly playing at a level that puts him at the top of the list when we think about the awards.

The Philadelphia Soul come into town next weekend, and it appears the Washington Valor are ready and waiting. As Philly has lost their first game of the season and Washington has won their first, this game sets up a streak breaker. Can the Valor win 2 in a row and cause the Soul to lose 2, or will the Valor lose their way and the Soul find a way to get back on track?

The fullback for the Valor, William Corbin, when asked said “This is an exciting time and we can’t wait to take the next step!”  I agree with Mr. Corbin, and I hope you do too. So, with the banner raised, the first W in the books and the season a quarter of the way through, it’s exciting to be a fan of the AFL. Don’t forget to tune in this weekend as the Soul and Valor face off in their week 4 contest.

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