by Bee Jay Glosson
It started early and it happened often, scoring that is, lots of scoring and lots of action.
With the Soul winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Valor would start the game with the ball and almost immediately with the lead. Less than 1 minute and 20 seconds into the game and the Valor would strike with the first touchdown, Arvell Nelson 7 yd pass to Jared Dangerfield.
Not to be outdone though, the Soul in less than 3 minutes strike back with a touchdown of their own, but the kicker commits the ultimate sin and misses the extra point leaving the Valor with the lead 7-6.
That is how the night got started and that is exactly how the rest of the night would go. Back and forth the entire night with no team having a greater lead than 15 at anytime, it would be a game where we saw the 2 starting quarterbacks combine for 14 total touchdowns.
Even the 15 point lead didn’t last longer than 3 minutes, putting the game back within 8 and striking distance the rest of the game.
As exciting as the whole game was, in which we saw Arvell Nelson pass for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns and another 29 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, it would be the final minute of play that would give the fans their money’s worth and all the blood pressure raising moments that they could have hoped for.
The Valor, leading 42-40 with 52 seconds left in the game, saw Pat Clarke kick a 30 yd field goal that cleared the nets and the uprights giving the Valor a 5 point lead and someone in the crowd a going home present in the form of a free ball.
With a 5 point lead and 52 seconds left, the game is over right? No, not even close. The Valor attempt an onside kick only to lose the attempt giving the Soul the ball on a short field.
When asked after the game why they went for an onside kick in that position, head coach Benji McDowell stated ” We wanted to give ourselves a shot at getting the ball back and running out the clock or if that didn’t happen, to hopefully still have enough time to score at the end should the Soul get the ball and strike fast.”
Strike fast they did. The Soul received the kick and then went on to score less than 30 seconds later giving them the lead 46-45 after a failed 2-point conversion, leaving just 23 seconds left on the clock for the Valor to try and win the game.
Down by 1 with 23 seconds left, the Valor line up on their own 4 for their final drive and chance to win their second game in a row.
“This is what we play for, what we practice for, what we put these uniforms on for. This is the moment we live for as players” is how Arvell Nelson responded when questioned on what was going through his mind taking the field for that last drive.
With a crowd over 6300, Capital One Arena was at its loudest, you had no doubt this would be a defining moment of the game. Then it happened. Nelson found Josh Reese running down the sideline. The Soul went for the pick instead of the tackle and Reese made them pay for it, taking it 46 yards to the house.
“I knew we could do it, it was a great pass from Arvell and we scored when we had to” Reese stated after the game on his winning catch.
The Soul would get a final shot at winning the game with just 6 seconds left but it would fall short. Valor winning the game 53-46.
Winning 2 regular season games in a row for the first time in franchise history, the Valor seem to be turning the corner and finding the high gear for the rest of the season. After all, the last time the Valor won 2 straight games they brought an ArenaBowl trophy home with them.
Jimmy Gordon was asked if this team is better than the championship team from last year, he responded, “Its hard to compare last year to this year. We have our core guys still and we are way more experienced, we know what we can do and we believe we will do it every play.”
As great as the game was, not everything went smoothly for Valor personnel. As I was waiting to get in the media entrance before the game, Jake Payne was attempting to gain access to the arena when a security guard asked if he was media or something. I responded with “That’s Jake Payne, Valor player and ArenaBowl 31 champion” Jake turned around and said “See, he knows me!” Asked if he had any I.D. to prove who he was, Jake responded with the most priceless quote of all time while holding his hand up “I’ve got a ring!” I literally started laughing out loud.
All jokes aside, it was easily one of the most exciting games I have ever witnessed as a Valor fan.
Next week the Valor travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the winless expansion team, the Columbus Destroyers.
Arvell Nelson has extended invitations to Ted Ginn Sr. and Jr., stating that “He has a special place in his heart for the pair and Columbus has a special place in their’s, and he looks forward to the chance to share that moment with them.”
One third of the way through the regular season the Valor sit at 2-2 on the season, in third place in the league. They control their own destiny, just win and keep winning is the motto. Tracy Belton in a candid moment after the game told me he thinks the Valor could honestly run the table the rest of the year, and you know what, I believe him.
With Arvell Nelson leading the league in pass yards (1121), rushing yards (94), rushing touchdowns (7) and overall touchdowns (24), there is no reason that they can’t. It’s a great time to be a fan, Go Valor.