by Bee Jay Glosson
The Washington Valor, coming off their second straight victory, found themselves in third place in the league coming up against the Columbus Destroyers who were coming off their 4th straight loss and looking for their first win in franchise history. Let me be the first to tell you, records don’t matter when that first kickoff happens.
With that first kickoff we got a taste of what this game would be as the kicker came out and truck sticked Dezmon Epps into the wall setting the tone of the day. Columbus built their team on defense and it showed early as they hit and harassed the Valor offense every play of the game. The Valor, who have scored the first points in every game they played this year saw that streak come to an end as the Destroyers got a interception. The Destroyers took advantage going down the field and scoring on a Grant Russell TD pass to Fabian Guerra giving them the lead 7-0.
The defense stands tall on the next Valor drive and the offense turns the gift into another touchdown strike giving the home town destroyers a 14-0 lead before the first quarter was even done. The last two drives ending the way they did lit a fire under Valor QB Nelson as he gets the offense down the field using his legs and finds a way to get the Valor back within 7 with his first touchdown of the day. Though that lead would again be 14 as the Destroyers go down the field and easily score again making it 21-7 which would be the score going into half as the Valor again would fail to score on their last possession of the half. It would certainly appear the Destroyers were well on their way to their first win of the season.
If the first half belonged to the Destroyers then the second half was clearly all the Valor’s. This game had everything a fan could want and everything they don’t want. 22 penalties in the game between the two teams and an ejection late in the game show just how this game was, chippy is an understatement. With the Destroyers getting the ball to start the second half already up 21-7 it would give them the opportunity to pad their lead but that wouldn’t happen. A quick pick 6 puts the game back within 7 as the Valor’s defense steps up and makes Grant Russell pay for his mistake.
The Valor would hold the Destroyers to a field goal on their next drive and score a touchdown of their own to get the lead down to 3, but that lead would be increased to 6 later as Columbus adds another field goal. I told you earlier you would see everything in this game, well you get an extra bit of entertainment late as Craig Peterson shows you he not only has a leg for kicking field goals, but he has some serious acting skills. On a kickoff that would see the Valor run it all the way back for a touchdown, Peterson who was held on the kickoff threw his legs out from under himself to sell the hold and get the flag to nullify the Valor’s touchdown. Then he promptly got up retrieved his tee where he got into Valor receiver Reggie Gray’s face who got back in his and then we saw it. The Greatest flop by any player not on a soccer pitch. Reggie Gray, 5 foot 11 inches, goes up to Craig Peterson, 6 foot 3, with barely a push, Peterson goes flying backwards drawing an unsportsmanlike foul and an ejection for Reggie Gray.
As a Destroyers fan I would be ecstatic that a Valor player got ejected, but I’m a Valor fan first and foremost and will never deny it, and that ejection because of a kicker flopping like he got driven into the ground by a 500 pound elephant, I couldn’t do anything but shake my head. The Valor were really behind the 8-ball now though, down by 6 and the game winning touchdown called back on the penalties, started what would most likely be their last chance to win the game.
The Valor would drive down the field to the 1 where we would see the Redzone woes that have plagued them the entire season show up and the Valor would turn the ball over on downs, on the 1 with just 27 seconds left. Down by 6 and the ball in the hands of Columbus, no one would give you grief if you stopped watching as a Valor fan. Arena football is nothing if not unpredictable because anything and everything can happen. Happen it did as we see Columbus get called for a intentional grounding in the endzone after a lineman stepped on Grant Russel’s foot as he dropped back causing the QB to throw the ball away giving the Valor defense a safety and the Valor offense the ball back with 16 seconds left in the game.
Down 27-23 with just 16 seconds to go after being down 21-7 at the half, the Valor find themselves in a position to cap off one of the greatest comebacks in team history. Cap it off they would indeed do, with the ball on the 9 yard line, Arvell Nelson would find Doug McNeil in the back of the endzone with 2 defenders on him as the Valor shock the hometown Destroyers with time expiring on the clock.
This game had it all. Early leads that would be erased, penalties galore, huge hits, quick scores, an ejection and a game winning score as time expires. Scoring 8 points in the last 27 seconds of the game, the Valor win their first road game of the season, their third win in a row total and send the hometown team home with a fifth straight loss. They may not be regional foes but these two teams are heading for a rivalry full steam ahead and the next time they meet again I expect fireworks that would make even July 4th envious. The past 2 weeks have seen the Valor win games in the closing moments. It’s a little hard on the heart but as a fan I could never ask for better entertainment.
Next week it will be a tale of 2 winning streaks where we will see the Albany Empire riding a 5 game winning streak take on the Valor who have their own 3 game streak fighting it out in Albany to see who’s streak comes to an end. The Columbus Destroyers face the Philadelphia soul where losing streaks, 5 straight for Columbus and 3 straight for the Soul, will be on the line next week. Whose streak will break? Nothing to do but wait for Saturday to get here and wait for all the craziness that comes along with it.