Monthly Archives: June 2019

AFL Week 10 Preview and Picks!

By: David Taylor

Week 10 is here and things are heating up! The playoff teams could be set after this weekend, making making each game a must-win for one or both of the teams involved. Here is what is happening this week:

Albany comes into this contest on the heels of their highest scoring output this season. The Empire edged out Atlantic City 63-61. The Soul are also coming off of a big win, making this matchup even more interesting. If Philadelphia wins, the Soul clinch a playoff spot. If Albany wins, the Empire clinch the top seed in the playoffs. Much is at stake. In the previous matchup, Albany defeated Philadelphia at home, 57-48. In that matchup, WR Lonnie Outlaw recorded three touchdown receptions. Look for the Soul to target him again this weekend. 

Player to Watch: WR BJ Bunn, Philadelphia Soul. Bunn has stepped in nicely for the injured Aaron Wascha. Bunn’s reception totals have increased in each of the past three weeks, and he topped 100 yards receiving in the win against Columbus. 

Prediction: Albany wins in a shootout, 63-56. 

Well hello to Mr. Warren Smith, Jr.! Smith stepped in for an injured Randy Hippeard last week and lit up the Empire defense. Smith went 24-34 with 329 yards and 7 touchdowns. If he can match that output this weekend, Atlantic City will defeat Washington. Speaking of Washington, the Valor need just one more win to clinch a playoff spot. With the log jam in the middle for spots 2-4, Washington can ill afford to lose to Atlantic City. Playoff seeding is also on the line, and the Valor are eager to sew up that second place spot. It will be a close game, especially since a loss will effectively end the playoff chances for Atlantic City. Expect a high energy game with so much on the line. 

Player to Watch: QB Warren Smith, Jr. Atlantic City Blackjacks. Smith is the key to victory for Atlantic City. His incredible numbers last week make Atlantic City extremely unpredictable and dangerous for the rest of the season.  After leading Atlantic City to its highest point total of the season last weekend, against the best team in the league no less, it would be criminal to not let Smith start again this week.

Prediction: Atlantic City turns the tables on Washington. Blackjacks 56, Valor 55. 

Columbus has been eliminated from the playoffs, so the Destroyers get to play the role of spoiler for the rest of the season. Columbus plays Baltimore and Washington in two of the last three weeks. Wins over both of them would almost certainly impact the playoffs. A win for Baltimore sets up a nice playoff run for the Brigade. If Baltimore wins out, the Brigade will likely be the 2 seed in the playoffs. Needless to say, Baltimore is not looking past Columbus this weekend. 

Player to Watch: WR Brandon Collins, Baltimore Brigade. Everyone is well aware of the touchdown streak for Joe Hills, but Collins is the leading receiver for the Brigade. Collins leads the team in yards per catch and in total yards. He trails Hills only in touchdowns. 

Prediction: Columbus destroys the playoff party for Baltimore. Destroyers 44, Brigade 38. 

Here are the staff picks for this week: 

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New Horizons: Five Former AFL Franchises that Should Return Soon

by Richard Martin

Earlier this week, executives in the Arena Football League announced that during this year’s ArenaBowl broadcast on August 11, the AFL would be announcing their expansion plans

This is huge news for all Arena Football fans as the league looks to take more steps forward into former glory. At one point the AFL had teams all across the nation and even a minor league, the af2, before collapsing and cutting down to just four teams at one point.

While fans will welcome expansion teams with open arms, look at the crowds at Albany Empire games, several fans are wanting their former favorite teams to return.

Let’s take a quick look at five potential AFL franchises that could return next season or in the future.

Nashville Kats

The league is looking to expand in the Northeast, but hear me out.

If the AFL adds the new Northeast franchise and then adds the Nashville Kats, you could have two divisions, east and west, of four teams each.

Also, adding Nashville breaks the league back into the South without going too far away from the most Western team at the moment, Columbus.

Finally, Nashville is a bustling metropolis with a lot of fun music and downtown life. Just look at the crowds at the 2019 NFL Draft and for the NHL Stanley Cup games a few years ago. The Titans have also been successful and have a passionate fan base. Why not do that with the Kats?

This feels the least likely of all expansion teams because it hinges on the announcement in August. But it would be fun to have an AFL team back in the South.

New York Dragons

New York has been successful with many AFL teams calling the state home

Albany has been able to draw crowds and produce, but unlike Atlantic City and Philadelphia or Baltimore and Washington, they don’t have a great geographic rival. So why not a cross state rivalry with Albany and Long Island?

Plus, the Dragons uniforms and color scheme were amazing and I would love to see a modern approach to the original design.

Chicago Rush

The Rush have a perfect set up in one of the best sports cities in America, that it makes too much sense not to bring them back.

There are about 14 sports arenas in the Chicago area it seems. In reality, the team succeeded in Rosemont, Illinois, with large crowds and a fun team to watch.

This could also bring the AFL more into the Midwest and become a gateway of possible Western expansion for the league.

Grand Rapids Rampage

After the XFL and AAF announced their team locations, several fans in the Detroit area were disappointed that their city wasn’t announced as a finalist. A small, but passionate fan base did bring up a possible return of the Grand Rapids Rampage.

While not the largest city in the AFL, Grand Rapids wouldn’t have much competition and seem to have a solid fan base.

Add in a potential rivalry with Columbus to create an old school Ohio vs Michigan feud.

Cleveland Gladiators

This makes the most sense out of all of these teams.

The league was successful in Cleveland, and with one team already in the state of Ohio, the league could look to going back to Cleveland.

It’s a safe move, which would be good for the league’s future. The Cleveland-Columbus rivalry could be fun and the return of the Philadelphia-Cleveland battles will be a treat for long time fans.

Whether the league looks to resurrect an old franchise, add a team from another league, or add their own expansion team in a completely different city, Arena Football fans should be excited about the future of the AFL.

Stat Pack Attack: The Valor Keep Playing Stupid Games and I Love It

by Richard Martin

Richard Martin

This week was another wild week in the Arena Football League. Philadelphia gave Columbus another heartbreaking loss, Albany and Atlantic City broke the scoreboard, more on that later, and Washington and Baltimore may have had the dumbest and craziest ending to a football game I’ve seen in a while.

Last Thursday, tied at 35, the Valor went for a field goal with under 20 seconds left to give them a narrow three point lead over the Brigade. The kick was up…and missed off the irons! But Josh Reese was composed enough to pick up the live ball and scramble into the endzone for one of the craziest wins in the Valor’s short history.

Add in the come from behind win against Columbus earlier in the year, this is a Washington team that understands the importance of finishing the drill and continuing to play hard no matter the score, which could make them dangerous come playoff time.

Week 9 Results
Washington 42 Baltimore 35
Albany 63 Atlantic City 61
Philadelphia 42 Columbus 35

Almost Conquered

The Albany Empire have been the unstoppable force in the AFL this season. With one loss and just three games left, the Empire can claim the number one overall seed with a win this week. Meanwhile, spots two through four all have teams sitting at a 5-4 record. Atlantic City sits two games out of the final playoff spot at 3-6, and Columbus is in last at 1-8.

Standings (As of June 22, 2019)

Albany*                    8-1
Washington             5-4
Philadelphia             5-4
Baltimore                 5-4
———————————-
Atlantic City             3-6
Columbus                1-8

*Clinched a Playoff Berth

Run It Up

No, that Albany-Atlantic City score is not a typo. The Blackjacks and Empire did combine for 124 points last week.

Warren Smith finished 24-for-34 for 329 yards and seven touchdowns for Atlantic City, while Tommy Grady wen 18-for-27 for 229 and seven touchdowns for Albany.

And while Malachi Jones continued his stellar season with nine receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, teammate Quentin Sims was the hot target, with seven receptions for 91 yards and five touchdowns.

Kendrick Ings struggled for A.C. with just two catches for 20 yards, but Antwane Grant went off with 11 receptions for 177 yards and four touchdowns.

While these stats and the final score is impressive, the 124 combined points isn’t even in the top 15 of most combined points in AFL history. That distinction belongs to the game in this week’s League Lookback.

League Lookback: The Highest Scoring Game in AFL History

The Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings and Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz were two teams left over from the af2 that found themselves in the new AFL in 2010. While each team would relocate after one season and were just a blip on the radar in the entire history of the Arena Football League, they gave us a night to remember on May 8, 2010.

That night, at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 4,775 fans saw the Yard Dawgz come from behind to knock off the Battle Wings 88-79. This was not a basketball game folks. This was an arena football game.

For a while, it looked like the Wings were going to run away with it, up 33-14 after the first quarter. But the Dawgz defense stepped up and Bossier-Shreveport didn’t score more than 20 points in any of the remaining three quarters of football.

OKC would take their first lead of the game with 4:02 left in the third quarter, but the Battle Wings would take it right back. Things looked dire for the Yard Dawgz as they trailed 79-75 with under 10 seconds left. But Timon Marshall would return a missed field goal 56 yards to give OKC the lead with four seconds left on the clock. Add in a David Hyland fumble return for a touchdown, and the Yard Dawgz would win the game 88-79.

The losing QB was Ray Philyaw, who on any other night would’ve had an MVP performance, going 29-for-38 for 355 yards and nine touchdowns. The winning QB was, who else, Tommy Grady, who went 34-for-42 with an astonishing 430 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Four receivers went for over 100 yards and caught at least four touchdowns. PJ Berry lead the Wings with 12 receptions for 173 yards and four TDs, while OKC was lead by Anthony Hines who finished with 11 receptions for 137 yards and four scores of his own.

Folks, I need to watch this game. The only video online I could find was one of Al Hunt’s four touchdown grabs. If anyone has any video, digital, DVD, heck even VCR tape of this game, contact AFL Fan Zone however you can because this game needs to be revisited and documented.

Game of the Week: Albany Empire at Philadelphia Soul

We’re getting to the point of the season where every game is important, but this one has an edge to it.

The Soul have been very up and down this season, at one point finding themselves under .500 for the first time in four years. This team is still dangerous, as they’ve rattled off two straight impressive wins over the lower half of the league.

The Empire will always be a tough team with Malachi Jones and Tommy Grady leading the offense. But after the way the defense has played the past few weeks, Dan Raudabaugh may be looking to show that he’s still one of the top QBs in the AFL.

This Week’s Games

June 28, 2019
Columbus Destroyers (1-8) @ Baltimore Brigade (5-4) – 7:00 PM

June 29, 2019
Albany Empire (8-1) @ Philadelphia Soul (5-4) – 3:30 PM
Atlantic City Blackjacks (3-6) @ Washington Valor (5-4) – 7:00 PM

2019 AFL Playoff Scenarios

Photo by David Taylor

by David Taylor

Week 10 is coming soon! This weekend could potentially set the playoffs for this season. Only one postseason ticket has been punched, so there are three more up for grabs. Here are some playoff scenarios to sift through. 

Albany Empire: (8-1) 

Playoffs: Clinched. Albany is now playing for the #1 seed in the playoffs. A win this weekend will lock that up for the Empire. One thing to watch for with Albany is whether or not the Empire will rest some of its players down the stretch, which could impact playoff seeding. 

Upcoming Games:
6/28 @ Philadelphia Soul
7/14 @Columbus Destroyers
7/20 vs. Philadelphia Soul

Washington Valor (5-4)

Playoffs: Washington needs just one win to clinch a playoff spot. The defending AFL champs are in a prime position to clinch the #2 spot with two more wins. Washington holds the tiebreaker advantage over Philadelphia and can take the tiebreaker over Baltimore next weekend. Defeating Atlantic City this weekend would all but eliminate the Blackjacks from the postseason. 

Upcoming Games:
6/29 vs. Atlantic City
7/13 @Baltimore
7/20 vs. Columbus

Baltimore Brigade (5-4) 

Playoffs: Baltimore gets in with a win and an Atlantic City loss. Atlantic City owns the tiebreaker in the head to head category, so if the two teams finish with identical records, Baltimore would likely miss the postseason. Baltimore does own the tiebreaker against Philadelphia, based on points scored in head to head matchups, so that could become a seeding issue in the weeks to come. 

Upcoming Games: 
6/28 vs. Columbus
7/13 vs. Washington
7/21@ Atlantic City

Philadelphia Soul (5-4)

Playoffs: Philadelphia has the most difficult schedule of all the teams on the playoff bubble. The Soul play Albany twice (home and away) and also travel to Atlantic City. Philadelphia clinches a postseason spot with a win this weekend. A win over Albany this weekend would also give the Soul confidence heading into the postseason, since the Empire have only lost one game all season. 

Upcoming Games:
6/28 vs. Albany
7/6 @ Atlantic City
7/20 @ Albany

Atlantic City Blackjacks (3-6)

Atlantic City is the team in the most danger right now. The Blackjacks need to win out to get a playoff spot ideally. There is a small chance they can sneak in at 5-7, but that will require a lot of other chips to fall Atlantic City’s way. If Atlantic City finishes 6-6, it will likely mean that either Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington will be 5-7, which would vault the Blackjacks to the postseason in their inaugural season. Two of the last three games are in Atlantic City, and all three of the Blackjacks’ wins have been home wins. 

Upcoming Games:
6/29 @ Washington
7/6 vs. Philadelphia
7/21 vs. Baltimore

Columbus Destroyers (1-8)

Columbus has been eliminated from the playoffs. The Destroyers can still play spoiler though, and they are a team that is much better than their record indicates. Wins over Washington and Baltimore in the coming weeks would undoubtedly affect the playoffs.

Upcoming Games:
6/28 @ Baltimore
7/14 vs. Albany
7/20 @ Washington

This weekend promises some of the most dramatic moments of the season so far! Tune in to ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app to catch all of the Arena Football League action.

Battle of the Beltway

by Bee Jay Glosson

Here we are, two-thirds of the season in the books and the battle for second place in the league gives us two familiar teams battling it out. The Brigade and Valor are owned by the same group and might as well be brothers in the grand scheme of things. They certainly act like it when they play each other with lots of back and forth banter and some of the most aggressive play from both. Some say they are rivals because of proximity as Baltimore is only an hours ride from D.C., others because they have played each other more than any other teams in the league. The players see themselves as rivals just as much as anyone and it shows on the field.

When you play your brother in anything you never want to lose, ever, so when you do lose, you know there will always be sour grapes in the bunch about it. This game would be no different except this time the game winning touchdown would come in a very different type of way. As I said earlier, these two teams know each other very well, so there are no niceties and well wishes, there are just hard hits and trash talking immediately.

Starting the game off the Brigade would defer and give the Valor the ball first, and in return the Valor would show them what that would cost them. Arvell Nelson would help drive his team down the field and then find “Big Play” Reggie Gray for a TD halfway through the first quarter. The Brigade would not go quietly into the night however, as Joe Hills would break his own record and extend his 100 game streak with a touchdown to 101 to bring them even at the end of the quarter.

Back and forth they would go til the end as the the proverbial brothers would move to beat the other. With 2 TD’s on the ground by Nelson for the Valor and another TD for Hills and a kickoff return by Joe Powell for the Brigade we would see this game go into the half tied at 21.

Pulling even at the half would not be as simple as scoring a touchdown though as the Valor had the last possession of the half and would make it a memorable one. With just over a minute left the Valor would score, or would they? A defensive penalty on the scoring play would allow the Valor to take their own points off the board in exchange for a new set of downs. Take points off the board? No way, never, nope, not gonna do it, but they did. With the crazy move though, the Valor would take the clock to 0 and score before the half to tie the game not allowing the Brigade a chance to hurt them again.

The second half would be the same as the first really, back and forth and then a crazy play to end it. With another 2 touchdowns on the ground for Nelson and the Valor, combined with 2 touchdown passes by Shane Boyd and the Brigade, we would find ourselves tied at 35 with less than 5 minutes to go in the game. Tie you say? No brotherly affair can be tied at the end and this one would not be any different.

With under 30 seconds left to go in the game, the Valor would go for a potential game winning field goal. Valor fans at this point are holding their breath and crossing fingers, toes and anything else they can find to make this kick go through the uprights. With kicking woes all year long, it was not a position anyone wanted to be in. Then it happened, the greatest missed kick of all time.

Pat Clarke III after the game would say, “We set up too close to the line, that’s on me, but we practice for things like this.” The kick was up, and wide left, but in all things arena, the ball would bounce off the bar, land in between 4 Brigade players, bouncing off one’s back and then into the hands of Josh Reese who would take it into the endzone for a Valor touchdown with less than 15 seconds to go left on the clock.

The Valor score on one of the most improbable plays to go up 42 to 35, but again arena knows no safeguards as 1 second on the clock is enough to win a game. The Brigade would get a final shot at it, literally as a defensive penalty would give them one untimed play, with no time on the clock to try and tie. That effort would fall short however and the Valor would hold on to win.

The Valor find themselves at 5-4, tied for second place in the league, heading into the final 3 games of the season. Atlantic City is in town this week with QB Warren Smith Jr and former OC Shane Stafford, who were both on the Valor staff last year during their championship run. Every game matters from here on and with Atlantic City on the outside of the playoff race looking in, expect a knock down, drag out game at home next week. As always, be loud, be proud and go Valor.

BattleStations Episode 18: One Game Seasons

Frank talks to Coach Sauk and previews the game against the Soul with AFLFanZone.com‘s David Taylor

BattleStations: a Columbus Destroyers podcast in conjunction with AFL Fan Zone. 
Follow Frank Walker on Twitter at @BStationPod and at https://battlestations.pinecast.co

AFL Week 9 Preview and Picks

Week 8 gave the AFL its first playoff team! The Albany Empire clinched a playoff spot in a huge come from behind win against the Valor. This week will shuffle the playoff deck a bit more. Here is a look:

Philadelphia needs this win badly to stay in the playoff debate. Columbus needs to win out and will need some help to have a shot at the fourth spot. The Destroyers dropped a close one to Baltimore last week, while the Soul looked dominant against Atlantic City. Philadelphia defeated Columbus earlier in the season in the two teams’ only matchup. Destroyer QB Grant Russell was picked off twice in that game, but has since not thrown an INT.

Player to Watch: WR Lonnie Outlaw, Philadelphia Soul. Outlaw let the team in receptions in the last meeting with Columbus. His size is a matchup nightmare in the Red Zone. Look for Outlaw to have another big game this Saturday.

Prediction: Soul 47, Columbus 38

Baltimore finally broke the win/loss pattern this past week, putting together a two game win streak for the first time all year. The Brigade will be facing a Valor team that squandered a 27 point lead to lost to Albany by 1. Baltimore currently holds the head to head advantage over Washington, making this game the most significant game of the weekend, playoffs-wise.

Player to Watch: WR Joe Hills, Baltimore Brigade. Hills has caught a TD pass in 100 consecutive AFL games. He is third in the league in touchdowns scored with 15. If Baltimore is going to win, look for Hills to have a big night.

Prediction: Valor 55, Brigade 49

Atlantic City enters this matchup on a bad note, losing 54-29 to Philadelphia last week. Albany defeated its arch rival Washington last weekend to clinch a playoff spot. Atlantic City needs this game much more than Albany does, but with QB Randy Hippeard all banged up, the task appears to be too tall this week for AC. The deck is stacked against the Blackjacks.

Player to Watch: WR Malachi Jones, Albany Empire. Jones dominated the Blackjacks last time the two teams played in Atlantic City. Jones caught 12 passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns.

Prediction: Empire 56, Blackjacks 41

Here are the rest of the staff picks this week: