by Bee Jay Glosson
If you were to sum up the Valor season you could simply say redzone troubles, turnovers on downs, missed extra kicks and playing from behind more than any team should have to. Then you could take that same summary and apply it to this game. With the Valor entering this game riding a 3 game win streak, they came up against the buzz-saw known as the Albany Empire who were riding their own win streak of 5 games and an undefeated season.
If the season recap is an accurate summary of this game for the Valor then you can probably assume this wasn’t a good game for them. Playing against the highest scoring offense in the AFL, you can not afford mistakes to the magnitude that the Valor experienced in this game. The Valor would score early to go up 12-7 in the first quarter, but again the PAT kicks were missed on both touchdowns taking us back to our season summary of missed kicks.
Then the bottom would drop out for the Valor. Three first half possessions would end on downs and another would end on a safety from a blocked field goal attempt. 23 unanswered points by the Empire in the second quarter left the Valor scratching their heads and down 30-12 at the half. While no lead in the AFL is ever safe as they say, it certainly didn’t look good for the Valor.
The second half would see more of the same, the Empire scored immediately after the second half kickoff pushing the score to 37-12. Down by 25, cue your favorite intro music, Douglas McNeil III shows up to help the Valor start the comeback. The next 4 touchdowns for the Valor would all be Arvell Nelson to McNeil.
Yes, the Empire would answer on 2 of those drives with touchdowns of their own, but there would be a stretch of 4 straight Valor touchdowns and a 2 point conversion that would see the Valor get the game back to a 3 point deficit at 51-48 with just under 5 minutes to go in the game.
That’s where the comeback would stop though, because for the first time in 3 weeks the Valor would come up short in the final minutes of the game. The Empire would tack on a touchdown and the game would end with the Valor falling to the Empire by 10 points with the final score being 58-48 at the final whistle.
Did we see some good things from the Valor? Yes, yes we did, but we also saw the same things that have been plaguing them all year long. Head coach Benji McDowell after the half said the team has to start fighting. When asked what he wants from his team he says, “to fight from the beginning and stop putting ourselves in this situation.” He is right of course, all of the Valor’s problems this year have honestly been self inflicted.
The defending champs are a very good team that have some serious problems that need to be addressed ASAP.
- Number 1 is the redzone woes and turnover on downs problems that have absolutely dominated the Valor’s season.
- Number 2 is the kicking issue, and it is definitely a problem. Pat Clarke has missed so many PATs this year he has single-handedly put the team behind the 8-ball in multiple games this year.
- Number 3? That’s easy, stop putting yourselves in a hole that gets harder and harder to climb out of. Comeback victories are great and everything, but they cost the team emotionally and physically and it will eventually catch up to you as it clearly did this week to the Valor.
The Valor find themselves in a 4 way tie for second in the league sitting at 3-3 on the season. Halfway through the season, with only 6 games remaining, the Valor have to play their best football down the stretch to make sure they get into the playoffs giving themselves a shot at defending the title they won last year.
Up next is the final road game, in this 3 game road trip, against the Philadelphia Soul. The Valor beat the Soul 3 weeks ago on a last minute touchdown, and the Soul have not forgotten. So get your popcorn because the show is half way through and the endgame has started. As always Go Valor and be loud, be proud, be a Valor fan.