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.
by David Taylor
It has been a rough season for the Destroyers as they head to 0-5 after a heartbreaking loss to the Washington Valor in one of the craziest games of football at any level I’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, who’s going to stop the Empire? Albany is now 5-0, going on the road and knocking off the BlackJacks. Albany has not faced Baltimore yet this season, and in a couple of weeks they may need to be the Rebel Alliance and lead the charge onto the Death Star.
Speaking of the Brigade, I never had a doubt in my mind. As the only member of the AFL Fan Zone staff to pick Baltimore to defeat Philadelphia, I was disappointed in the play by the Soul this week. So far, the Soul have not impressed me this season and will need to kick it into another gear if they want to have a shot at the ArenaBowl.
Week Five Results:
Washington 29 – Columbus 27
Albany 54 – Atlantic City 35
Baltimore 45 – Philadelphia 30
Good Gravy, Grady!
Last week, Tommy Grady threw his 805th career touchdown. This week, he finished with 228 yards and five touchdowns, moving him past Andy Kelly to fifth all time with now 810 passing touchdowns.
Randy Hippeard was solid for the BlackJacks, throwing for 246 yards and four touchdowns himself.
Dan Raudabaugh struggled, going 15-of-34 for 220 yards and three touchdowns, while Shane Boyd went 18-of-24 for 164 yards and four touchdowns.
And while Arvell Nelson didn’t wow anybody with his stats, he did throw the last second touchdown to win the game over Columbus and threw his 200th career touchdown pass
Jones in the Fast Lane
Who’s going to stop Malachi Jones? Since returning to the league from the AAF, Malachi Jones has been a terror on opposing teams secondaries. This week, Jones had 12 receptions for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Kendrick Ings of the BlackJacks had 11 receptions for 106 yards and three touchdowns, continuing his fantastic season.
And in Baltimore, four different receivers caught a touchdown in the Brigade win over the Soul.
The Craziest Football Game I’ve Ever Seen
Columbus and Washington engaged in one of the craziest football games I’ve seen in awhile.
The Destroyers lead 21-7 at the half, and looked like they were going to get their first win of the season. But after a come back by Washington, a goal line stand by the Destroyer defense and then an intentional grounding call in the end zone, the Valor had the ball with 12 seconds left and down 27-23. When the dust settled, a last second walk off touchdown pass Arvell Nelson to Doug McNeil put the cherry on top of the sundae of crazy.
This game finished with 22 total penalties for 162 yards, 13 for Columbus 88 yards and nine for Washington for 74 yards, for the most combined penalties in an AFL game since last season when Philadelphia and Albany combined for 22 penalties as well.
Also, this is the first time an AFL team had won a game scoring less than 30 points since the Orlando Predators defeated the Georgia Force 27-24 in 2012.
While many people head into Arena Football games expecting high scoring, this game really captured the craziness and fun the Arena Football League brings every single week.
This Week’s Games
June 1, 2019
Washington Valor (3-2) @ Albany Empire (5-0) — 3:30 PM
Baltimore Brigade (3-2) @ Atlantic City Blackjacks (2-3) — 3:30 PM
Columbus Destroyers (0-5) @ Philadelphia Soul (2-3) — 7:00 PM
Atlantic City- After a fast start, the Atlantic City Blackjacks were unable to keep pace against the undefeated Albany Empire. Atlantic City matched Albany score for score until halftime. The Blackjacks led 28-27 at the break but ultimately fell, 54-35.
After the half, it was all Empire. Albany received the second half kickoff, and promptly drove the ball the length of the field. The drive resulted in a touchdown pass to Malachi Jones from quarterback Tommy Grady. The duo was unstoppable all game long, as Jones finished with 12 catches for 106 yards and 3 touchdowns. Grady finished the game 24 for 31 with 228 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Looking to keep pace, Atlantic City WR Kendrick Ings fumbled the ensuing kickoff. It was recovered in the endzone by Albany for a touchdown. It was the first lead of the game for the Empire, and it set the tone for the rest of the half. It was the only negative on the day for Ings, who finished the game with 11 catches for 106 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ings also returned a first half kickoff for a touchdown, the first in the history of the Atlantic City franchise.
Atlantic City lost multiple second half turnovers, including a 21-yard fumble recovery by Joe Sykes to seal the victory for Albany. Atlantic City also lost Lamark Brown for the game due to what coach Ron James called a “lower leg injury.” James also added, “We did some harm to ourselves today. Obviously I have to coach some of the situations better. We didn’t do a good job of fielding the ball, and when didn’t, they capitalized. That’s what good teams do.” When asked what the message to his team going into this week would be, James said, “The message was simple in the locker room. We just have to stop hurting ourselves. Most of our mistakes were self-inflicted. We had one play in particular that I thought was indicative of how we didn’t want to finish the game. We thought we had a touchdown with the ball off of the side wall, because the side wall is live in arena football, the back wall is dead. So we thought we had a catch off of the side wall, it was ruled that it wasn’t. The next play, we gave the ball up.”
With the loss, Atlantic City falls to 2-3 and will host Baltimore next weekend.